If you have pain, burning, numbness, or tingling in your toes, feet, or lower legs, you may have a condition called peripheral neuropathy. This condition is usually chronic and progressive and may be caused by a variety of problems. Peripheral neuropathy can be managed with a combination of self-care home treatments and medication. Making some lifestyle changes may also improve symptoms caused by peripheral neuropathy.
This article takes a look at the causes of peripheral neuropathy and the various home remedies and lifestyle changes that may help you manage the nerve pain in your feet.
What Causes Nerve Pain in Feet?
There are several different causes of nerve pain in your feet and toes. Some may be avoidable, and others happen with very little cause. Regardless of the cause, you should see your healthcare provider if you have any symptoms of pain, burning, or numbness and tingling in your lower extremities.
Diabetes is a condition in which your body’s ability to manage your blood sugar is compromised. This usually occurs as a result of changes in your body’s ability to make insulin. Management of diabetes involves frequent monitoring of your blood glucose levels and making adjustments to your diet. Getting injections of insulin or taking oral medications may be needed to keep your blood sugar at an appropriate level.
Long-term and chronic diabetes may cause damage to the nerves in your lower extremities, leading to symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. This is called diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Small Fiber Neuropathy
Small fiber neuropathy is a condition that affects the tiny nerve endings in your skin. The condition often occurs for no apparent reason, and it causes painful pricks, tingling, and altered sensations in the feet or hands. Typically, the symptoms start in your feet and then progress up your legs.
Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is a genetic condition that causes nerve damage to the small nerves in your arms and legs. This results in pain, abnormal sensations, and weakness in the muscles that these nerves serve. There is no cure for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. Management involves remaining active and trying home remedies for nerve-related symptoms.
Heavy Alcohol Use
Alcoholic neuropathy occurs when someone consumes excessive amounts of alcohol over a long period of time.
Alcohol consumption alters the absorption of various vitamins and nutrients in the body. Some of these nutrients, like thiamin, folate, and vitamins B6 and B12, are essential for normal nerve conduction to occur. Altering the absorption of these nutrients may cause peripheral neuropathy.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
Tarsal tunnel syndrome occurs when a nerve in your inner ankle and foot becomes pinched. This can occur with adult acquired flat foot syndrome and causes pain or tingling in your foot and toes. Adult acquired flat foot syndrome is characterized as feet that become flat over time due to age and/or injury.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
Complex regional pain syndrome, formerly called reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), is a mysterious nerve condition that causes pain and abnormal swelling of the limbs. This typically occurs after an injury or surgery to the affected limb.
The pain, redness, and swelling that accompany CRPS are typically much greater than the injury or surgery that initiated it. Treatment involves a multifaceted approach, including physical therapy, pain management, and self-care strategies to manage the pain.
If you have cancer, you may have to go through a course of chemotherapy as treatment. The medication used during chemotherapy may have a deleterious effect on your nerves, and if nerves in your lower extremities or feet become damaged, peripheral neuropathy may develop.
Some injuries to the lower extremities or low back may cause damage to the surrounding nerves. While some peripherals are able to slowly heal, occasionally a nerve becomes irreparably damaged, leading to chronic long-term neuropathy.
Injuries affecting the nerves in your legs can include spinal problems like a herniated disk, spinal stenosis, or a lower extremity fracture.
Home Remedies for Nerve Pain in Feet
If you have nerve pain in your feet or peripheral neuropathy, follow your healthcare provider’s advice to get proper treatment. There are several home remedies that may offer you some relief. Keep in mind that not all treatments work for everyone, so you may have to try a few of them.
If you have a medical condition that is causing your nerve pain, managing that condition can help ease foot pain. There are many things you can do on your own to manage the pain and burning caused by peripheral neuropathy, including:
- Manage diabetes and blood sugar levels: If you have diabetic neuropathy, you’ll need to manage your blood sugar levels to keep your nerves functioning properly and further problems with neuropathy.
- Exercise: Exercising regularly can help your body naturally manage blood sugar levels and, regulating your diabetes. Regulating diabetes may improve your symptoms of nerve pain in your feet.
- Quit smoking: Smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products can affect circulation. This your risk of foot problems and other complications of peripheral neuropathy.
Taking care of your feet is one of the best things you can do if you have nerve pain in your legs and feet. Ensuring the skin, bones, and joints in your feet are healthy can keep your nerves feeling and operating well. Consider trying the following:
- Neuropathy socks: These are specialized socks that feature seamless construction, moisture-wicking material, nonbinding elastic, and soft materials. They may help reduce the pain associated with diabetic foot neuropathy.
- Foot soaks: Soaking your feet, either in a specialized foot bath or your bathtub, may provide some much-needed self-care for your feet. Soaks with oils like peppermint or chamomile or Epsom salts have been shown to decrease pain in people with neuropathy.
Beware of Heat
Test the temperature to be sure the water for your foot soak is not so hot that it burns your skin. Because you may lack sensation in your feet, you may not realize how the water is when you submerge your feet.
General health and well-being practices can help improve symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, as well as reduce your stress level. Some self-care activities include:
- Practice good sleep hygiene: If you’re not sleeping well, then your body does not have a chance to rest and heal properly from the stresses of the previous day. Sleep hygiene—the process of prepping your body for a good night’s sleep—is an important component of managing nerve pain. This may involve avoiding caffeine, shutting off the television or computer screens, and dimming the lights prior to bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol: Alcohol can have a damaging effect on nerve health, so avoiding it may be one way to prevent some symptoms of peripheral neuropathy in your feet.
- essential oil massage: Essential oils may be used to quell the pain of neuropathy in your feet. Common oils include chamomile, peppermint, Saint-John’s-wort, and ginger. Research regarding essential oils for nerve pain shows varying results, but it’s worth trying if you aren’t sensitive to essential oils.
- Try alternative therapy, such as biofeedback, meditation, or guided imagery: Alternative therapies that can shift your focus away from nerve pain to calming thoughts may help you manage your symptoms. Mindful meditation or guided imagery with a psychologist may be helpful.
- Check your feet daily: You or a loved one should check the bottom of your feet daily. With neuropathy, you may not be able to feel a callus, wound/ulcer, infection, or foreign body. By taking a quick look once or twice a day, you may prevent hospitalizations, loss of limb/amputations, and more. If you have an issue, immediately seek medical care from a podiatrist or other qualified healthcare provider.
Supplements and Topicals
Some people benefit from taking supplements or using topical creams to find relief from nerve pain in their feet. Common supplements include:
- Turmeric: Turmeric is a spice that contains the compound curcumin, which has been shown to reduce inflammation and swelling. There is some evidence that taking turmeric can help reduce neuropathic pain, but research is limited.
- Topicals with capsaicin or lidocaine: Topical creams containing capsaicin or lidocaine have been shown to decrease the symptoms of neuropathy. These tend to be more effective when combined with oral pain medications. Use gloves or thoroughly wash your hands after applying these topicals and be careful not to get them into your eyes, nose, mouth, an open wound, or on your genitals.
- Fish oil: While fish oil supplements have been shown to improve cardiovascular health, little is known about their effect on nerve pain. Some research indicates that fish oil may reduce pain in diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
- Ginger: Supplementation with ginger has been shown to be effective in reducing inflammation in people with osteoarthritis, neuropathy, and generalized pain.
Talk to Your Healthcare Provider About Supplements
Always talk to your healthcare provider before adding a supplement to your care routine. It’s important to make sure the supplement is safe for you and won’t negatively interact with any other medications or supplements you’re already taking.
Effectively managing nerve pain in your feet involves working with your healthcare provider to find the right medicine for your condition. Performing self-care (managing your blood sugar levels, exercising, not smoking) and using some simple home remedies can also help you find relief. Most cases of peripheral neuropathy can be managed well with a combination of traditional medical care and home remedies.
A Word From Verywell
If you have nerve pain in your feet or lower extremities, then you understand how your symptoms can affect your day to day activities. Effectively managing your pain with home remedies may be a part of a broad treatment strategy for your peripheral neuropathy. By working closely with your healthcare provider, you will work to find the best treatment for your condition, getting you back to your normal activities with minimal nerve pain in your feet.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best foot soak for neuropathy?
The simplest foot soak is done by placing warm water in a tub with 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt. This can relax your foot muscles, improve circulation, and decrease nerve pain.
How do you sleep with nerve pain in your foot?
If nerve pain in your feet prevents you from sleeping well, practice good sleep hygiene by following a schedule when preparing to go to bed. Limit screen exposure, avoid caffeine, and dim lights prior to bedtime. Visit your healthcare provider to discuss ways to effectively fall to sleep and remain asleep.