The role of the nervous system in the body
The nervous system plays an important role in everything your body does, such as regulating your breathing, controlling how your muscles move, and sensing temperature.
There are three types of nerves in the body, each of which plays a different role. The autonomic nerves, which control movements of your body (both voluntary and involuntary/automatic), including heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and temperature regulation.
The motor nerves control movements and actions by relaying information from your brain to the spinal cord and muscles so that they know how to respond.
The sensory nerves send information from the skin and muscles back to your spinal cord and brain, which results in your feeling sensations such as pain.
Because nerves are so essential to the body, nerve pain can have a hugely negative impact on your quality of life.
Symptoms of nerve pain and nerve damage
There is a wide range of symptoms that are associated with nerve damage. Which ones you experience depends on the location and type of nerves that are affected. Damage can occur to nerves in the brain and spinal cord, as well as in the peripheral nerves, which are located throughout the rest of the body.
Autonomic nerve damage can include experiencing a lot of sweating (hyperhidrosis) or not enough sweating (anhidrosis), light-headedness, dry eyes and mouth, constipation, bladder dysfunction, and sexual dysfunction.
Damage to motor nerves can include weakness, muscle loss (atrophy), twitching (fasciculation), and even paralysis.
Sensory nerve damage can cause pain, sensitivity, and a sense of numbness, tingling, prickling, or burning.
Sometimes people will experience symptoms relating to more than one type of nerve at a time.
Causes of nerve pain and nerve damage
It is estimated that about 20 million Americans suffer from peripheral nerve damage, and this becomes increasingly common with age.
There are a lot of different potential causes of nerve pain and damage. This includes autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Cancer can also cause nerve pain and damage, either due to cancerous masses pushing against nerves, nutritional deficiencies caused by certain types of cancer, or cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.
Compression and trauma can also cause nerve pain and damage, including pinched nerves in the neck, crush injuries, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Nerve pain and damage can also be the result of certain infectious diseases, such as Lyme disease, herpes viruses, HIV, and hepatitis C.
Diabetes is a particularly common cause of nerve pain and damage, and it’s estimated that around 70% of people with diabetes experience problems. Diabetic neuropathy is a serious complication and can affect all three types of neurons. Sensory nerves are most often impacted, causing burning or numbness.
Dealing with nerve pain and damage
In most cases, nerve pain and damage cannot be completely cured, but their symptoms can be managed.
Often, the step is finding out if there is an underlying condition that is causing the nerve pain and damage and addressing this directly, which may involve regulating blood sugar levels if you have diabetes, correcting nutritional deficiencies, starting or changing medications, as well as physical therapy or surgery.
ⓘ We strongly recommend that you consult with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements to ensure there are no contraindications and that they are right for you. This information is not intended to replace professional advice or meant to be used to prevent, diagnose, or treat any disease or illness.
9 Supplements That Can Help Manage Symptoms of Nerve Pain
In addition to addressing the underlying reasons for nerve pain and damage, several supplements can help to manage the symptoms by reducing pain and discomfort.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a mitochondrial compound that plays a key role in energy metabolism. It is synthesized in the body and is found in meat, fruit, and vegetables.
It has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, and can also decrease blood glucose levels. It provides several general health benefits, including fighting against heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, and the neurological decline associated with aging.
How does alpha-lipoic acid help with nerve pain and damage?
A multicenter randomized double-blind parallel-group trial found that 600 mg ALA taken daily for four years resulted in a clinically meaningful improvement and fewer showed progression of neuropathic impairments compared with a placebo (1).
A systematic review of clinical trials of ALA and sensory neuropathy found that taking the supplement regularly improved nerve pain and associated symptoms when taken over the short term (such as three weeks) as well as over the long term (several years). Researchers propose that results are so effective that ALA should be considered to be a treatment option for those experiencing diabetic neuropathy, as it also does not seem to negatively impact blood sugar control (2).
How do I take alpha-lipoic acid?
To obtain the benefits of ALA for nerve pain and related symptoms, it is recommended to take 600 mg per day. Although ALA is fat-soluble, it does not need to be consumed alongside dietary fat to be absorbed from the gut. It can be taken at any time of the day, and with or without food.
Check it Out: 10 Best Rated ALA Supplements to Consider
Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral and the second most prevalent electrolyte in the human body. Deficiencies are common in developed countries because it is not found in high amounts in the foods that are commonly eaten, such as grains. Good food sources of magnesium include nuts and leafy green vegetables.
A deficiency in magnesium increases blood pressure, reduces glucose tolerance, and causes neural excitation (overstimulation of nerve cells).
How does magnesium help with nerve pain and damage?
A randomized clinical trial found that taking 300 mg daily for three years significantly improved the symptoms of polyneuropathy, a condition when several peripheral nerves become damaged compared with a control group not taking a supplement (4).
How do I take magnesium?
To obtain the benefits of magnesium for nerve pain and damage, it is recommended to take 300 mg daily. Any form of magnesium can be used to supplement, except for magnesium L-threonate because it contains less elemental magnesium per dose. However, negative digestive effects, such as diarrhea and bloating, are more common when magnesium oxide or magnesium chloride are supplemented, due to the lower absorption rates of these two forms. Magnesium citrate tends to be the best choice for supplementation. It can be taken at any time of the day but should be consumed with food.
Check it Out: 10 Best Rated Magnesium Supplements to Consider
Curcumin is a yellow pigment that is found primarily in turmeric, a flowering plant of the ginger family. It’s a polyphenol with anti-inflammatory properties and can increase the number of antioxidants that the body produces.
Both the curcumin and the other curcuminoids found in turmeric can be extracted to produce supplements that have a much higher potency than turmeric. However, curcumin is relatively poorly absorbed when taken by itself. It is therefore often sold as a supplement with other ingredients to improve bioavailability, such as black pepper extract.
How does curcumin help with nerve pain and damage?
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that taking 80 mg curcumin daily for eight weeks significantly reduced the symptoms of neuropathy compared with placebo (5). Researchers used The Toronto Clinical Neuropathy Score to measure neuropathy symptoms, which showed a statistically significant reduction in total neuropathy score, total reflex score, and temperature in the curcumin group compared with placebo. Participants also experienced significant improvements in blood glucose control compared with placebo.
How do I take curcumin?
To obtain the benefits of curcumin for neuropathy, it is recommended to take 80 mg per day. This should ideally in a supplement containing an ingredient to boost absorption, such as black pepper extract or a lipid.
Curcumin can be taken at any time of the day but should be consumed with food.
Check it Out: 10 Best Rated Turmeric Supplements to Consider
L-Carnitine is a compound that is produced by the body from lysine and methionine. It can be acetylated to produce acetyl-L-carnitine, which is similar but crosses the blood-brain barrier more efficiently.
L-Carnitine plays several different roles in the body but it is best known for its involvement in the mitochondrial oxidation of long-chain fatty acids.
How does L-carnitine help with nerve pain and damage?
A multicenter, randomized, parallel-group, double-blind, double-dummy, positive-controlled trial found that 1500 mg acetyl-L-carnitine taken daily for 24 weeks improved clinical symptoms and neurophysiological symptoms of neuropathy, and was well tolerated by participants (6).
Another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial found that taking 2000 mg every day for 355 days significantly improved neurophysiological parameters and reduced pain compared with placebo (7).
A systematic review on randomized controlled trials of acetyl-L-carnitine and painful peripheral neuropathy concluded that it can significantly reduce nerve pain, as well as having beneficial effects on nerve conduction parameters and nerve fiber regeneration (8).
How do I take L-carnitine?
To obtain the benefits of L-carnitine for nerve damage and pain, it is recommended to take 1200-1600 mg per day. If taking it in acetyl-L-carnitine form, this is equivalent to 1500-2000 mg.
Check it Out: 10 Best Rated L-Carnitine Supplements to Consider
Sulbutiamine is a synthetic molecule consisting of two Thiamine (Vitamin B1) molecules bound together by a sulfur group. It provides several health benefits, including reducing fatigue and improving concentration, memory, and mood. It is also sometimes taken by endurance athletes to improve their performance.
How does sulbutiamine help with nerve pain and damage?
An open-label, randomized controlled trial found that 400 mg sulbutiamine taken daily for six weeks was able to significantly improve peripheral nerve function compared with baseline levels (9).
A parallel randomized controlled trial found that 0.25 mg sulbutiamine, alongside 50 mg benfotiamine (another vitamin B1 synthetic molecule) taken daily for nine weeks was able to significantly improve background and peak neuropathic pain (10).
Interestingly, results were not better for participants taking a higher dosage of the supplement.
How do I take sulbutiamine?
To obtain the benefits of sulbutiamine for nerve pain and damage, it is recommended to take 400 mg per day. Although studies have demonstrated positive results with lower doses, this has only occurred when it is taken alongside other ingredients.
Sulbutiamine can be taken at any time of the day and with or without food.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) is a water-soluble essential vitamin and plays a vital role in the metabolism of fatty acids essential for the maintenance of nerve myelin.
It is usually consumed via supplements but can also be obtained from eating fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals. Long term vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to nerve degeneration and irreversible neurological damage
Vitamin B12 is available in three different forms: cyanocobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, and methylcobalamin. Cyanocobalamin is the most widely available and least expensive.
How does vitamin B12 help with nerve pain and damage?
A systematic review of randomized controlled trials concluded that both vitamin B12 alone and a B complex vitamin containing B12 significantly improved symptoms of nerve pain and damage, including somatic symptoms, such as pain and paresthesia, and autonomic symptoms, such as light-headedness, dry eyes, and mouth (11).
A randomized, single-blind clinical trial found that 2000 mg vitamin B12 taken daily for 12 weeks significantly improved nerve pain, paresthesia, and tingling compared with taking the nerve pain medication nortriptyline (12).
How do I take vitamin B12?
To obtain the benefits of vitamin B12 for nerve pain and damage, it is recommended to take 2000 mg per day. Although some studies have found benefits with lower doses, this is when vitamin B12 has been taken alongside other B vitamins. Vitamin B12 can be taken at any time of the day and with or without food.
Check it Out: 10 Best Rated Vitamin B12 Supplements to Consider
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is a water-soluble vitamin, which cannot be synthesized by the body so must be consumed via food. It is found in high amounts in chickpeas, potatoes, and bananas.
After absorption, vitamin B6 is converted into pyridoxal phosphate which is an important co-factor in numerous metabolic reactions in the body.
Vitamin B6 is unique in that either a deficiency or an excess can cause nerve pain and damage. A vitamin B-6 deficiency typically occurs alongside a deficiency in other B vitamins, such as vitamin B-9 and vitamin B-12.
How does vitamin B6 help with nerve pain and damage?
A randomized controlled trial found that taking 25 mg vitamin B6 daily, alongside 50 mg vitamin B1, for four weeks significantly reduced nerve pain, numbness, and paraesthesia compared with a group taking the same vitamins at a lower dose of 1 mg per day (13). The severity of peripheral neuropathy symptoms decreased in 48.9% of patients in the higher dose group compared with 11.4% in the lower dose group.
How do I take vitamin B6?
To obtain the benefits of vitamin B6 for nerve pain and damage, it is recommended to take 25 mg daily, either on its own or alongside other B vitamins. It can be taken at any time of the day and either with or without food.
Check it Out: 10 Best Rated ALA Supplements to Consider
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid found in several plant seed oils, including evening primrose oil, borage seed oil, and black currant seed oil. It is essential for maintaining brain function, skeletal health, reproductive health, metabolism, as well as skin and hair growth. GLA has a wide range of health benefits and is often used to treat skin conditions, such as eczema, as well as to manage pre-menstrual symptoms (PMS).
How does gamma-linoleic acid help with nerve pain and damage?
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled parallel study found that 480 mg of GLA taken daily for one year was able to significantly improve neuropathy symptoms, including hot and cold thresholds, sensation, and tendon reflexes compared with placebo (14).
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that 360 mg of GLA taken daily for six months was able to significantly improve symptoms of neuropathy compared with placebo (15). Researchers concluded that GLA may be useful to help prevent nerve pain and damage, in addition to managing the symptoms.
How do I take gamma-linoleic acid?
To obtain the benefits of gamma-linolenic acid for nerve pain and damage, it is recommended to take 360 mg per day. It can be taken at any time of the day but should ideally be taken alongside food.
Cysteine is a semi-essential amino acid. Although your body can produce it from other amino acids, such as methionine and serine, these are not typically consumed in high amounts. Cysteine is found in most foods containing protein, including sunflower seeds and legumes.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is the supplement form of cysteine and has several health benefits. This includes replenishing glutathione, the most powerful antioxidant in your body. NAC can also help with managing chronic respiratory conditions, fertility, and brain health.
How does N-acetyl cysteine help with nerve pain and damage?
A randomized placebo-controlled trial found that 600 mg NAC, alongside pregabalin (a nerve pain medication) taken daily for eight weeks significantly improved nerve pain symptoms and sleep compared to taking pregabalin alongside a placebo (16). Researchers attributed these results primarily to the anti-oxidant effects of NAC.
A prospective randomized controlled open-label study found that 1200 mg NAC taken twice daily for 12 weeks significantly reduced the symptoms of paclitaxel-induced peripheral neuropathy (chemotherapy-induced pain) and improved quality of life compared with taking 1200 mg NAC once daily or a control group taking no NAC (17).
How do I take N-acetyl cysteine?
To obtain the benefits of N-acetyl cysteine for nerve pain and damage, it is recommended to take 1200 mg in total per day. This can be taken either in one dose or split into two doses. NAC can be taken at any time of the day and either with or without food.
Check it Out: 10 Best Rated NAC Supplements to Consider
Omega-3 fatty acids
There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega-3 fats are found in oily fish and algae.
EPA and DHA are involved in regulating several biological processes, such as the inflammatory response, various metabolic signaling pathways, and brain function. Although they can be synthesized in the body from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), this is typically in small amounts so it is better to consume omega-3 directly to obtain the health benefits.
How do omega-3 fatty acids help with nerve pain and damage?
A single-arm, open-label pilot trial found that taking a supplement containing 750 mg EPA, 1020 mg DHA, and 560 mg DPA (a polyunsaturated fatty acid) daily for one year significantly improved neuropathy symptoms (18).
A systematic review of studies on omega-3 fatty acids and neuropathy concluded that these fatty acids are neuroprotective and are beneficial for managing the symptoms of neuropathy (19).
How do I take omega-3 fatty acids?
To obtain the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for nerve pain and damage, it is recommended to take an omega-3 supplement containing a total of 1750 mg combined DHA and EPA. It can be taken at any time of the day but should ideally be taken alongside food.
Check it Out: 10 Best Rated Fish Oil Supplements to Consider
The nervous system plays an important role in everything your body does, which means that neuropathy can have a wide range of negative effects. The symptoms experienced depend on the types of nerves affected (sensory, autonomic, or motor), but can be hugely debilitating.
Autonomic nerve damage can cause experiencing problems with sweating, light-headedness, dry eyes and mouth, constipation, bladder dysfunction, and sexual dysfunction. Motor nerve damage can cause weakness, muscle loss, twitching, and paralysis.
Sensory nerve damage can cause pain, sensitivity, and a sense of numbness, tingling, prickling, or burning.
Experiencing nerve damage and pain is very common and there are lots of potential causes. This includes autoimmune diseases, compression and trauma, infectious diseases, and diabetes. It is important to identify the reason for neuropathy so that any underlying health conditions can be treated.
Generally, nerve pain and damage cannot be completely cured, but their symptoms can be managed, including taking nutritional supplements.
Keep Reading: 9 Supplements That Help Fight Stress
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Contents of this Article
- The role of the nervous system in the body
- Symptoms of nerve pain and nerve damage
- Causes of nerve pain and nerve damage
- Dealing with nerve pain and damage
- 9 Supplements That Can Help Manage Symptoms of Nerve Pain
- The bottom line