Relieve Diabetic Nerve Pain in Feet

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Diabetic nerve pain occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the nerves in your legs, causing tingling, burning, and sharp, shooting pains in your feet. Although diabetic nerve pain isn’t always curable, thankfully, there are several ways you can manage your symptoms. To help relieve the pain in your feet, try taking a prescription medication according to your doctor’s instructions, making important lifestyle changes, or using an alternative remedy.


[Edit]Taking Medication

  1. Take medications to control your blood sugar. Unfortunately, there’s no way to cure or reverse diabetic nerve damage. However, keeping your blood sugar well controlled can help prevent damage or stop it from getting worse. If you don’t already use insulin or take other medications to control your blood sugar, talk to your doctor about your options. In addition to insulin, common types of medications for managing blood sugar levels in diabetes include:[1]
    • Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors
    • Biguanides
    • Dopamine-2 agonists
    • DPP-4 inhibitors
    • Meglitinides
    • SGLT2 inhibitors
    • Sulfonylureas
    • TZDs
    • Combinations of multiple oral medications
  2. Try an anti-seizure medication to ease the nerve pain in your feet. If you’re experiencing pain or numbness in your feet as a result of your diabetes, your doctor may give you a prescription for an anti-seizure medication, such as pregabalin, gabapentin, or valproate. While they don’t always work for everyone, these medications can help relieve diabetic nerve pain for some and may help reduce any numbness, burning, or shooting pains.[2]
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    • Pregabalin and gabapentin can cause side effects such as drowsiness and clumsiness. Be careful driving or operating machinery when you’re on these medications, and talk to your doctor about adjusting your dose if necessary.
    • The dosage and usage of anti-seizure medications for diabetic nerve pain varies depending on the medication and your particular condition. It’s important that you take these medications as directed by your doctor.
    • Anti-seizure medications can have several side effects, including drowsiness, dizziness, and swelling.
  3. Get a prescription for painkillers to help manage your pain. If your nerve pain is both persistent and severe, your doctor may decide to give you a prescription for an opioid painkiller. While there are several risks associated with opioid use, several types of opioids, including dextromethorphan, morphine, tramadol, and oxycodone, have proven to be very effective at decreasing or eliminating diabetic nerve pain in feet.[3]
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    • Opioids can cause drowsiness, constipation, headaches, and nausea, and can lead to dependency. It’s important that you only take your pain medication as directed by your doctor and only as needed for severe nerve pain.
    • Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen, are generally not effective for relieving nerve pain.[4]
    • How and when you’ll take prescription painkillers depends on the exact medication you’re taking and the detailed treatment plan your doctor prescribes.[5]
  4. Use an anti-depressant for moderate relief for the pain in your feet. If you have chronic nerve pain from your diabetes but your pain isn’t severe, your doctor may give you a prescription for an anti-depressant. While anti-depressants likely won’t relieve the nerve pain in your feet completely, they can help reduce your pain so that it’s more manageable.[6]
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    • The dosage and instructions for taking an anti-depressant for diabetic nerve pain depends on the type of medication, your personal medical history, and the specific treatment plan your doctor provides. Refer to your doctor’s instructions to assess when you should take your prescription and what your dosage should be.
    • Anti-depressants help reduce nerve pain by disrupting the chemical processes in your brain that make you feel pain.
    • Some anti-depressants that are commonly prescribed for diabetic nerve pain include amitriptyline, venlafaxine, and duloxetine.
    • Some of these medications, such as amitriptyline, can cause drowsiness or fatigue. If you experience these effects, take your medication at night when you go to bed.

[Edit]Making Lifestyle Changes

  1. Maintain your target blood sugar level to prevent and relieve nerve pain. Because high blood sugar is the main cause of diabetic nerve pain in feet, keeping your levels in range is the best way to both prevent and help ease nerve pain. To keep your blood sugar within the range recommended by your doctor, check your diabetic glucose monitoring device regularly and adjust your diet as needed to keep your levels in range.[7]
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    • If you have diabetes but don’t yet have a glucose monitoring device, talk to your doctor to see what type of device they recommend you use.
    • While ranges vary, the target blood sugar ranges for most people are between 80 and 130 mg/dL before meals, and less than 180 mg/dL after meals.
  2. Monitor your blood pressure to make sure it stays in range. Having diabetes and high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels and reduce the blood flow in your body, both of which can contribute to nerve pain in your feet. Because people with diabetes are more likely to have high blood pressure, it’s important that you monitor your blood pressure by going to the doctor regularly for a reading, or by getting a blood pressure cuff you can use at home.[8]
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    • Because the target blood pressure range varies from one person to the next, it’s important that you talk to your doctor to find out what they recommend. For most people, however, the target blood pressure reading is under 120/80.[9]
    • You can purchase an at-home blood pressure cuff and monitor online or at most drug stores.
  3. Exercise regularly and eat well to maintain a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight can help relieve the nerve pain in your feet by improving your body’s ability to control your blood sugar and increase blood circulation in your feet. By exercising regularly and filling up on healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you’ll also be able to manage the amount of pressure your body places on your feet.[10]
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    • In general, aim to exercise for about 150 minutes per week.
    • If your diabetes nerve pain makes it difficult to exercise, try exercising in short bursts. If your feet hurt too much to walk, exercising your arms and core can still help reduce your pain over time.
  4. Avoid smoking to keep circulation problems from getting worse. Smoking can interfere with your body’s circulation, which can limit the blood flow to your feet and make nerve pain even worse. Therefore, it’s important that you avoid smoking so that you don’t make any nerve pain and numbness in your feet worse.[11]
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    • People with diabetes who smoke are also more likely to experience a heart attack or stroke.
    • If you currently smoke and want to quit, using a tobacco aid, seeking outside support, or deciding to go cold turkey may be able to help you quit for good.

[Edit]Using Alternative Remedies

  1. Try a topical capsaicin cream to alleviate nerve pain temporarily. First, make sure that your skin is clean and dry. Then, apply a thin layer of capsaicin cream over the affected nerve area. Wash your hands with soap and water to avoid spreading or transferring the cream anywhere else.[12]
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    • Capsaicin cream can cause a burning feeling and skin irritation. If this happens, stop using the capsaicin cream immediately.
    • Capsaicin is the compound found in peppers that gives them their spicy kick. Its effectiveness varies from one person to the next, however, so this may or may not help alleviate nerve pain and numbness.
  2. Use nerve stimulation therapy to diminish your sense of pain. If you’re having nerve pain in your feet from your diabetes, your doctor may give you transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation therapy, often referred to as TENS therapy, to try to reduce your pain. While TENS therapy doesn’t do anything to actually alleviate nerve damage, it uses electrical impulses to prevent pain signals from reaching your brain.[13]
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    • TENS therapy is only administered by doctors within a hospital or clinic setting. The specific time and method for applying this therapy will vary depending on what your doctor determines to be the best course of action.
    • While it is generally very safe and painless, TENS therapy is not always effective for treating diabetic nerve pain in feet.
  3. Get acupuncture to try to ease the pain in your feet. While it doesn’t work for everyone, getting acupuncture treatments may help stimulate blood flow in your body, which may help relieve nerve pain in your feet. You’ll likely need to get several acupuncture treatments in order for it to start working to relieve your pain.[14]
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    • When considering acupuncture, you may want to check with your health insurance provider to see if treatments are covered by your insurance. Without insurance, several acupuncture treatments can be quite expensive.
  4. Take supplements to see if they might help reduce pain. To try to help reduce the nerve pain in your feet, take vitamin and antioxidant supplements that have pain-relieving properties, such as vitamin B1 and alpha-lipoic acid. While evidence on how effective these are at relieving nerve pain is inconclusive, they may be able to help with pain when combined with other treatments.[15]
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    • There’s some evidence that alpha-lipoic acid can help improve blood sugar levels, which may in turn help reduce symptoms such as pain and tingling in the feet.[16]


  • Because diabetic nerve pain can cause you to lose feeling in your feet, you may not know when you have an injury. Therefore, it’s important that you check your feet for blisters, sores, and other injuries consistently so you don’t develop an infection.[17]


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