Peripheral Neuropathy

Key Points

  • Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nerves).
  • The patient-education resource from the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) advises an integrative approach to managing peripheral neuropathy.
  • Guidelines from the Society for Integrative Oncology list acupuncture as useful in relieving peripheral neuropathy but warn against using acetyl-L-carnitine.
  • A few other therapies have some evidence of effectiveness.

Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nerves)  that carry messages to and from the rest of your body. Depending on where these nerves are damaged, various symptoms may develop:

  • Numbness, tingling or pain in the hands and/or feet
  • Muscle weakness
  • A change in organ function, such as constipation

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Managing Peripheral Neuropathy

The patient-education resource from the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) advises an integrative approach to managing peripheral neuropathy:1

  • Eating well, including a balanced diet that includes specific nutrients such as B vitamins (including B1 and B12, folic acid)  and antioxidants, and that limits alcohol
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Relaxation
  • Moving more
  • Medications: see the American Society of Clinical Oncology website: Peripheral Neuropathy

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Clinical Practice Guidelines

Acupuncture is listed by the Society for Integrative Oncology clinical practice guidelines as an integrative therapy with evidence for usefulness in peripheral neuropathy.6

SIO advises that acetyl-L-carnitine (CAM-Cancer) is not recommended for the prevention of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy due to potential harm.7

Integrative Plans, Protocols and Medical Systems

For more information about plans and protocols, see our Integrative Plans and Protocols page.

Commentary

Laura Pole, RN, OCNS, October 18, 2018: Janie Brown is an oncology nurse and co-founder of a cancer retreat program and centre in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her BCCT story, The Power of the Integrative Approach in Breast Cancer Treatment (see in Personal Stories below), is a treasure trove of helpful information. She describes how her partner with breast cancer and her team made decisions about chemotherapy, wove in useful complementary therapies to prevent and minimize treatment side effects and created a caring community. The integrative plan staved off the usual chemotherapy side effects of peripheral neuropathy, mucositis, fatigue, nausea and neutropenia.

Written by Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS, and reviewed by Nancy Hepp, MS; most recent update on October 19, 2018.

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