Peripheral Neuropathy

I’m on the hunt for anything that can help with peripheral neuropathy (PN).

I’ve seen posts on the Breast Cancer Network site that mention taking B vitamins but this advice appears to be based on the fact that B12 deficiency can cause PN. Certainly, if you are B12 deficient then this supplement would help but for those of us with chemotherapy induced PN I can’t find any evidence that it will make any difference.

Here’s the only study I could find and it says it’s unlikely to help:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18646107

What I have found is some evidence regarding the supplement acetyl l carnitine. As a fibromyalgia sufferer, I’m familiar with this. It’s excellent for relieving fibro symptoms and there’s a small double blind trial that demonstrates this:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17543140

I’ve also found these studies relevant to peripheral neuropathy:

http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/28/1/89.full

^This one is about using acetyl l carnitine to treat PN in people with diabetes. The study concluded that this supplement did help to reduce pain and to increase the regeneration of nerve fibre clusters. Interesting, but does that mean it’s good for chemo induced PN?

http://www.oncologypractice.com/oncologyreport/news/patient-survivor-care/single-article/acetyl-span-classsmall-capslspan-carnitine-yields-mixed-results-for-chemo-induced-neuropathy/b4ec0d9cec31908c2219419ef93bbd3c.html

^This article compares two bits of research about acetly l carnitine. The first involves a study where people took it during chemotherapy and it made their PN WORSE! The conclusion was that it should NOT be taken during chemotherapy. I was taking it before I started chemo and, once again, this research confirms my oncologists advice that you shouldn’t take any supplements other than vitamin D during treatment.

The second piece of research involved a study in China where people with chemotherapy induced PN were given the supplement after their chemotherapy (in some cases, well after). The results were that there was a statistically relevant improvement. The caution on this research is that the population was entirely Asian: the researcher commented that there may be difference in DNA that meant the supplement worked better for people with Asian heritage.

My conclusion; There’s sufficient evidence of the beneficial effects of acetyl l carnitine to make it worth a try.

I’m going to start taking it again now that I’m weeks out of chemotherapy and I’ll report any improvement in my peripheral neuropathy. It’s now just over a month since I stopped chemo and my PN doesn’t seem to have improved at all. I’m only going to take this supplement until I start radiation on the 26th of February because I think it’s wise to avoid taking anything at all when I having either chemo or radiation. That should be long enough to see if it makes a difference.

I’ve found some research into the use of accupuncture to treat PN including this:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17355547

It’s not a particularly large sample but the results are promising. I know from past experience that accupuncture usually requires several treatments over a number of weeks so this will be an option for me after radiotherapy if I’m still having problems.

Other strategies I’m using include:

* Yoga – great for my circulation and my balance. If you google ‘yoga and peripheral neuropathy’ you’ll find some specific exercises designed for this conditon. I can’t find any research to back any of this up but on the basis that yoga is so good for me anyway, I’m going to keep doing it every day.

* Walking – Graham and I are heading out each evening for a walk. My legs and hips are so sore that we were only making it to the end of the street when we started but we’re going just a bit further each day. I’m feeling better for it.

* Epsom salt baths – Grandma’s cure for aches and pains and supported by science; epsom salts contain magnesium which helps to relieve muscle pain. I’ve found it’s great for short term relief of PN.

*Massage – I’m massaging my hands and feet every day using my hands and this great little plastic ball with spikes on it that my daughter gave me for Christamas. My husband suggested those massage sandals with the little nodules all over them but the ball does the same job. I also found some spiked plastic balls being sold as ‘dryer balls’. They suggest you put them in with your clothes to fluff them up and stop them tangling. They make the most dreadful noise in the dryer but they are wonderful for hand and foot massages.

*Touch – I’m spending some time each day touching different surfaces and textures with my hands and feet. I’m hoping this helps to rebuild the connection between my brain and my fingers and toes. At the very least, it reassures me that I can still feel things through the numbness.

*Warmth and protection – I’m finding that my hands and feet feel better if I don’t let them get cold. I’m also making a point of wearing shoes and being very careful when I use knives. The numbness puts me at greater risk of injuring myself.

*Attitude – I’m not letting the numbness get me down. Even if I’m stuck with it, it’s a small price to pay for my life-saving chemotherapy.

If you come across any other research on PN or if you discover something that works for you I’d love to know about it.

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