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Nerve Damage (neuropathy) as a Side Effect of Surgery

How it happens. What can be done for relief? 

Often, during the course of surgery it is possible that nerves may become damaged. 

Causes of nerve damage during surgery include the scalpel, a bruise that occurs on the nerve, inflammation of the tissue around the nerve, forces caused by patient positioning during surgery, or prolonged contact with rigid surgical equipment. Prolonged stretching or compression of tissue surrounding a nerve hampers circulation and can deprive the nerve of nourishment. These effects can lead to nerve damage, which may be temporary or permanent.  

Although anyone undergoing surgery runs a risk of nerve damage, patients who have diabetes mellitus, cancer, a vitamin deficiency, or a history of previous nerve injury have an increased risk. Other risk factors include smoking, alcoholism, obesity, a preexisting limitation in joint movement, personal or occupational habits that cause repeated bending of an extremity, or a lengthy surgical procedure.

This damage can be the result of all types of surgery.

In some cases the nerve damage will go away over time, as the injured portion of the nerve heals or the inflammation goes away. In other cases, the symptoms are permanent unless the nerves can be made healthy again.

Symptoms of surgical nerve damage:

Symptoms include tingling or numbness in one area of the body.   It may resemble "pins and needles:  It can result in pain, which is generally a severe burning pain. 

These symptoms may occur at the actual surgical site, or in distant parts of the body as the damaged nerve may supply these parts. 

These symptoms may become worse due to sudden movements or unusual body positioning, such as those that occur during sleep.

The pain that comes from post-surgical nerve damage will be treated by medical doctors with pain medication, even narcotics. 

Treatment for the Nerve Damage of Surgery


Pros: There are several drug treatments for neuropathy. There are medications such as Lyrica and Cymbalta that are given cover up or block the pain. Lyrica is an anti-seizure medication. It is used for neuropathy as it stops the nerves from talking to each other so you don't feel the pain. Cymbalta is a anti-depressant which is used because it lowers a person's awareness and thus their awareness of the pain. One drug occasionally used is Prednisone and also Elavil.  

Cons: You have to continue to take the drugs to get relief and drugs have side effects.  

Prednisone depletes the body of vital nutrients and there is a problem withdrawing from it (see Prednisone

Amitriptyline (Elavil) it lowers the awareness of the nerve damage but as with all medications, they have side effects that don't enhance your health.   

Additionally, Cymbalta as an anti-depressant can very often be difficult to get off without side effects. For info on Cymbalta & Neuropathy  

Long term these drugs can cause more damage due to side effects and deficiencies it can create. 

For side effects of the different drugs go to www.drugs.com or www.rxlist.com   

If you are taking any mediation that has a side effect of neuropathy, you should talk to your doctor to see if there is an alternative medication. 


Pros: Combines a footbath with an electrical current.  Claims to open up nerve channels and stimulate circulation to the affected area. It claims to stimulate the nearby calf muscles to contract and relax, enhancing the local blood flow to bring fresh nutrients to the nerves and help remove accumulated toxins.  No information on how it would address neuropathy in other areas of the body.

Cons: Cost. Inconclusive if this works for everyone or why electric current will "rebuild" nerves except for increasing circulation There are many anti-oxidants which will also increase circulation. It also states it sends electric current up the foot through the sciatic nerve and down again so it addresses foot neuropathy only. 


Pros: The ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture has been known to help with the symptoms of neuropathy.  There is apparently an ability to improve circulation with this method that would give similar relief.  There is also acupressure which works on the same principles as acupuncture.  For more information go to Acupuncture

Cons: Acupuncture sometimes does not help with neuropathy. You also have to continue to get treatments. 

Alpha lipoic acid: 

Pros: This is as an anti-oxidant which will help protect the nerves so no further damage is done to the body. It can help with the symptoms. In order to help it needs to be taken with Acetyl l-carnitine. There is evidence that they work together well in helping the body use nutrients to repair the nerves, but the vital B vitamins need to be taken with it. 

Cons:  None.  


Pros: They will cover up the symptoms of neuropathy similar to drugs and can make you temporarily feel better. You must continue to take them. The body doesn't use them to build healthy nerves. 

Cons: There are problems with herbs. They can interact with any other medications that you are taking. They can have side effects. Herbs are similar to drugs in so far as (in therapeutic dosages as found in the herbs that you can buy) they make the body do what it wouldn't normally do. While you can use herbs in your salad and in tea without problems, when you take herbs in a supplement, they are extracts which are far stronger dosages. Herbs should be taken separately as if there is a problem, you can isolate what herb is causing the problem. The combination of herbs found in some supplements prohibits you from doing that. 

Remember, herbs are not vitamins. They are natural substances, but they aren't the vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids & amino acids that the body needs to function, create energy and to repair itself. 

Herbs can make your neuropathy feel better, but aren't used by the body to repair the nerves. Thus, you need to keep taking them to continue the relief. There are some herbs which shouldn't be taken more than a few months like Feverfew or Ashwagandha.

When taking any herbs, check with your pharmacist. Pharmacies have databases where they can check for interactions and side effects. 

Glutamine & B6: 

Pros: Although no scientific evidence, some people with chemo induced neuropathy have said they had some relief.  

Cons:  There is, however, some concern that it may stimulate tumor growth.  

Anodyne Therapy:  Infrared light to increase circulation and stimulate production of nitric acid.  It is supposed to relax the arteries and eliminate free radicals. Pads are put over the injured areas.  Pain is supposed to be relieved with increased circulation and more nitric oxide in the blood.   Can treat common injuries.

Con: Relieves the symptoms but needs to be continued for relief. 

Homeopathic Formula:  Homeopathy can give temporary neuropathic pain relief without side effects or interactions with drugs.  What is homeopathy?

Cons:  They relieve the symptoms but don't address the problem. 

Topical creams:

There are many different creams available that will bring relief from neuropathy pain. They can be applied as needed. Capsaicin is a common ingredient. It is used to relieve pain for arthritis, muscle pain, joint pain, as well as nerve pain.  It can address the inflammation.

Cons: They relieve but you must continue to use it for relief. Doesn't work for everyone. 

Cold Laser Treatment or Low Level Laser Therapy:

It will give relief from pain. It is non-thermal and won't burn the surrounding area. It is trying to increase cellular activity. The laser delivers electric pulses to the target area which delivers a jolt that matches the pulse at which the body perceives pain. It claims to create a reduction in pain by causing the production of natural pain killer endorphins. 

Cons:  Relief Only. 

Take a Quiz: Am I doing everything I can to daily help my neuropathy?

Find out what lifestyle changes will help, take the quiz and get our suggestions and get our assistance on what you can do.

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None of the above treatments will build healthy nerves.  You can cover up the symptoms and you can increase circulation and you can make a person feel less pain, etc., but you want to build healthy nerves. 

Rebuilding Healthy Nerves:  

Healthy sensory nerves mean that they are not painful. Healthy nerves means that they communicate and don't send wrong signals such as burning, hot and cold, tingling when there is no reason for it. Healthy motor nerves mean that they relay messages from the brain to the muscle so that they move correctly.  Nerves need to be healthy to function properly. 

The body needs specific nutrients (vitamins) to be able to build healthy nerves. 

Cons: It may not give immediate relief, as the vitamins are working at a cellular level and thus may take longer, but it does address the actual problem and builds healthy nerves. 

(For temporary relief while building healthy nerves, go to Pain Relief Formula )

What can be done for relief?

We always recommend you take the approach of building health - and nerves are no different. 

Find out how to build healthy nerves



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