Nerve Pain - Neuralgia

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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Release physical pressure on the nerves

Physical pressure on the nerves is such a common cause of nerve pain that it almost should be assumed to be a primary issue unless there is evidence to the contrary.

Classical pinched nerve conditions like carpal tunnel or ‘wry neck’ are well known examples but this can equally be the core issue in lumbago and many other types of neuralgias.

Releasing physical pressure on the nerves will help and two reliable methods to achieve this are:

nerve cells


Heating/Cooling therapy

Heating/cooling therapy to relieve painful swelling is a tried and true strategy and should significantly help nerve pain if done correctly. Conventional medicine uses half of the equation with applying ice to painful swellings but the heating side of things is just as important and, in fact, it is usually best to start with the heating first and then go to the cooling

To explain why you should use heat in the first place, something must be said about the widely-misunderstood subject of inflammation.

The word 'inflammation' literally means 'a fire within', it is an excess of heat and of course such a thing can be extremely challenging because it hurts, it may look bad, and it will likely be the main cause for swelling leading to nerve pain from pressure. Anyone would be forgiven for wanting to reduce that heat, that inflammation, as much and as quickly as possible, so why would we possibly want to add heat to it at all?

It is vital to understand that Nature does things for a reason and that inflammation is one of its essential methods whereby damaged or diseased tissue is able to be broken down and removed before new and healthy tissue can replace it.

Everyone has some degree of inflammation happening in their body all the time because we are constantly wearing down and renewing our body tissues.

The problem occurs when we get an inflammation that gets caught and doesn't move forwards to the next stage of healing, in old terminology this was called 'stuck heat'.

When we briefly bring extra heat to an already inflamed and swollen area, we can help the body achieve what it is trying to do already but getting painfully stuck in the process. The heat will certainly add to the inflammation but only very temporarily because we then follow it with the cooling phase of the treatment.

The proof is in the results. This method will usually give rapid and significant relief. Most importantly, it can help a chronic problem to get unstuck and start healing.

How to best apply the heat depends on the affected body part. Wheat bags are excellent, as is soaking in hot water, as is using a hot compress whereby a towel is soaked in hot water and applied to the area with another towel over the top of it.

The main point is to get enough heat to the affected area that you can actually feel it penetrating in and getting the blood moving. Once you feel well and truly hot, you then swing to the other side of the treatment and rapidly cool the area.

How to best apply the cold again depends on the affected part. Ice-packs might be perfect, as could be soaking in a bucket or basin with ice water (this will not hurt after the heating stage), or it may be best to use a cold compress, made by soaking a towel or cloth in icy water and applying it 'wringing wet' to the affected area with a towel over the top of it. If a compress is being used, and a longer treatment is needed but the first one has warmed up too much to be useful. then be prepared to replace the first compress with a freshly soaked and lightly wrung-out second cloth. In any case, the cold should penetrate enough for there to be a significant amount of numbness and a substantially reduced amount of inflammation.

If things are bad, or if the problem is quite long-standing, you should repeat the whole process of heating up and cooling down a 2nd time whereby you do another whole heating application before finishing with the cooling off.

Rather like how it is helpful to rinse a dirty dish after firstly giving it a scrub, the second wave of heating + cooling helps to further flush away the metabolites and by-products of inflammation and so further relieve the pressure on the nerves.

How often this heating and cooling therapy should be repeated must be dictated by the urgency and severity of the condition. This is not a treatment that carries any risk of harm from over-use. Listen to your body and your instincts for how long to sustain this approach and how often to do the treatment.


Hands-on work.

Hands-on work will not be appropriate for every case of neuralgia but, in many cases, there will be every reason to go to some trouble to find a person who is skilled in hands-on work to do the kind of massage and/or adjustments that give the body a chance to reset its structure.

The name that such a person gives their method (e.g. chiropractic, osteopathic, neuromuscular therapist, massage therapist) is of secondary importance, what matters is that they are very good at what they do and will give their best effort to help you. Many of the suggestions linked above in the beginning section on how to find a good herbalist will equally apply in this area.



A consistent practice throughout all the old systems of medicine has been to endeavour to help people with chronic problems that is not self-resolving by following a program of internal cleansing or detoxification.

An accumulation of toxicity in the tissues can be a major contributor to nerve pain so, if you have any reason to believe that your system is likely to need cleansing, whether it is an intuitive sense or any kind of history of poor skin, bowel or kidney health, then taking certain herbs and eating a cleansing diet may be an essential part of getting well. If this is an area you need to work on then read more here

Juniperus communis (Juniper berry)


Use herbs that relax and nourish the nervous system

Anyone that has had any kind of nerve pain for any length of time should consider using herbal medicines to both relax and nourish their nerves. These are nothing like anti-depressants or nerve-blocking agents such as are used by conventional medicines for neuralgic pain. They will not be mind-altering, or addictive, or sudden in their effects, nor will they have side effects, or leave a person with dulled sensibilities.

Valerian & Cramp Bark

Valerian to be especially helpful at relaxing the nerves and helping reduce a lot of the anxiety that so often accompanies any kind of chronic condition of pain in the nerves, more about it here.

Cramp bark may combine particularly well with Valerian when a strong physical action on tight, tense nerves is required, more here

Valeriana officinalis (Valerian)


St John's and Withania

St John's wort has been popularised as a natural 'anti-depressant' and it does have potent effects on the central nervous system however, its traditional use was more for physical pain in the nerves than anything else. For some people with chronic nerve pain it may be considered as an essential ally, more here.

Withania is one of the most important of all natural remedies for people who have become run down and depleted. A sure, gentle tonic, it may help a person with chronic pain who has been struggling to cope. The better a person's health and well-being, the better they can mend themselves, more on Withania here.


So long as it has been used with adequate and frequent enough dosing, Skullcap has been seen to be of profound benefit for some people with neuralgia and must at least be considered as an option, more here

Californian Poppy

Californian poppy is not the only 'pain' herb e.g. Corydalis and Jamaican dogwood are two other notable options, but it is one that I have a particular affinity with and have seen to be of sincere help in neuralgia amongst other painful conditions.

Californian poppy is not going to take away inflammation or greatly reduce sensation but what it does do is deeply relax the nerves in a kind of calming and soothing way that helps pain to become a lot less intolerable, more here

Eschscholtzia californica (Californian poppy)


Constitutional Health Note

Finally, you might benefit from learning about your constitution to know what kind of foods, herbs, exercises etc. will work especially well for your health in general.

Constitutional health is an old and fascinating way of understanding our differences. There's a brief introduction here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here.

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd