Supplements for Nerve Pain
If you have nerve damage and are looking to optimise your recovery, there are a few supplements that have shown promise with regard to either protecting or repairing nervous tissue.
Patients often present with symptoms of nerve damage, the classic example being ‘trapped nerves’ where a nerve has been compressed or irritated somewhere in the back or neck. A typical example is where one of the intervertebral discs in the lower back bulges and pushes against the sciatic nerve or one of its roots causing ‘sciatica’. Along with pain, damaged nerves can produce other symptoms in the extremities like muscle weakness or numbness and ‘pins and needles’. In my experience, with the right treatment, the pain associated with damaged nerves can be alleviated effectively, but some of the other symptoms can tend to linger much longer.
The good news for patients is that there is plenty of evidence that injured peripheral nerves like the sciatic nerve have an inherent ability to regenerate and recover. The not so good news is that this regeneration can be a quite complicated and slow process. First, the damaged nerve tissue has to be cleared away by the immune system, and then both the internal wiring (axons) and external insulation (myelin) layers of the nerve need to be replaced and reconnected with other tissues. For minor nerve damage, such as a pinched nerve, the recovery time may be a few weeks to a few months. There are even times when the recovery can take years.
If you have nerve damage and are looking to optimise your recovery, there are a few supplements that have shown promise with regard to either protecting or repairing nervous tissue;
For me however, the most promising natural supplement with regard to nerve damage repair (neuroregeneration) is the medicinal mushroom Lion’s Mane.
Lion's Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine for centuries, and in recent years there has been growing interest in its potential therapeutic effects on the nervous system. Beneficial effects have been seen in the areas of depression, anxiety and cognitive function and even in a multiple-sclerosis like condition in mice.
More importantly for this article, there have been specific studies showing that Lion’s mane can help regenerate damaged peripheral nerves in animals.
A 2013 study in rats showed that Lion's Mane enhanced the recovery of injured (crushed) peripheral nerves. Another study in 2016 in rats showed that Lion’s mane promoted peripheral nerve regeneration after injury by affecting signalling pathways and protein synthesis. A lab-based study in 2002 showed that Lion’s Mane helped nerve cells grow, and a recent 2020 study even showed that Lion’s Mane could help reduce neuropathic (nerve) pain in mice.
Whilst these studies are promising, it’s fair to point out that they have only been in animal models or cell cultures so far, and human trials have yet to take place.
Typically, a standard dose for Lion's Mane Mushroom extract ranges from 500mg to 3000mg per day, divided into two to three doses. Although Lion’s mane is generally considered safe, it can have an anticoagulation (blood-thinning) effect, so anyone taking existing blood-thinners like Warfarin should be cautious. As always, it’s very important to do your own research and discuss any new supplements you are thinking of taking with your GP.
Osteostudio East Grinstead.
Author: Cliff Russell - Registered Osteopath