Inflammation and neuropathic pain
Exploring neuropathic pain and its causes
We all know how frustrating pain can be, but when pain is constant and ongoing (often referred to as chronic), it’s no longer just a nuisance - it can be life-changing. Neuropathic pain can be exactly that. In this article, I will be exploring neuropathic pain and its causes, investigating how it is linked with inflammation and most importantly, finding out what nutritional changes can be applied to help reduce symptoms and support those with the condition to live a happier, healthier life.
What is neuropathic pain?
Neuropathic pain is often described as a burning sensation, pins and needles, temperature insensitivity or numbness, and many sufferers find the affected areas are very sensitive to touch. The severity of the pain can vary from person to person, as can the areas of the body being affected. As a chronic pain condition, its effects can range from mildly irritating to completely debilitating. This specific type of pain is caused by damage to the nerves that communicate messages between the brain, spinal cord and limbs. Sometimes, the cause of this is clear; injury during surgery, neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, or metabolic conditions like diabetes. However, it is not uncommon for a cause to be unidentifiable.
How does inflammation affect neuropathic pain?
Many pain-related conditions have been linked to systemic inflammation, and neuropathic pain is no different. Widespread inflammation in the body damages cells and interferes with their ability to communicate effectively with each other, which may explain why those suffering with neuropathic pain are often found to have higher levels of circulating inflammatory chemicals in the blood. Another important point to note, some causes of neuropathic pain, such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes and viral infections, are directly impacted by chronic inflammation, which in turn increases the risk of developing this type of pain.
How is neuropathic pain treated?
Sadly, the treatment of neuropathic pain is often ineffective, and instead patients are offered different types of medication to manage the symptoms. Although research on therapeutic natural remedies is limited, with most studies having been conducted on animals, there is some preliminary evidence for vitamin D, curcumin, omega-3, vitamin B12 and zinc supplementation as potential strategies for management, thought to be due to their actions on inflammation. Eating a low-inflammatory diet and managing blood sugar may also be effective for both treatment and prevention of the condition, especially in those cases caused by inflammatory diseases like diabetes. As such, The Foundation of Peripheral Neuropathy advocate an anti-inflammatory diet for those with neuropathic pain, and for prevention of the condition.
While neuropathic pain is still poorly understood in the medical world, there is promising evidence, albeit limited, that following a healthy lifestyle may help in the prevention and management of the condition. Therefore, eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in colourful fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and protein, should be considered as a first-line approach for sufferers.