Alternatives for Your Aching Feet Part 2

Capsaicin may give the kick they need.

Joy Pape By Joy Pape, RN, BSN, CDE, WOCN, CFCN

Welcome back for more. For those of you whose feet are bothering you, it may be due to Part 1 of This Article

Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy (DPN)

DPN is not the only cause for tingling, pain, numbness, or other weird feelings of your feet, but it is one of the primary causes. The only way for you to really know is to check it out with your healthcare team and get the right diagnosis. And remember, prevention is the best treatment for DPN. This means not only managing your blood glucose, but your blood pressure and lipids as well.

If you do have DPN, there are approved treatments and there are two alternative treatments that have shown some benefit and even some science to back them up. I talked about alpha-lipoic acid last month. This month I'll tell you about capsaicin (pronounced cap-SAY-sin).


Capsaicin is the active ingredient that causes the heat in chili peppers. Capsaicin gives chili peppers their kick!

Medicinally, capsaicin is used to relieve neuralgia. Neuralgia is pain from your nerves near the surface of your skin. Capsaicin is used for DPN and also nerve pain that affects some people after having an infection with herpes zoster (shingles). It is also sometimes used for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and itching of your skin. Capsaicin does not cure any of these conditions, but it may provide you with some relief.

Capsaicin is available without a prescription, but your healthcare provider may have some tips or concerns about how you should use it. It comes in several forms:

• Creams
• Lotions
• Ointments
• Gels/Jellies
• Liquids
• Films
• Sticks
• Pads

As with any product, you need to make sure you use it properly, and be aware of any adverse effects or warnings before you use it.

If you choose to try capsaicin, read and follow the directions on your package and keep these things in mind:

• Capsaicin does not usually provide immediate relief. It must be used as directed and used regularly. It may take two to four weeks or longer of regular use before you get relief.

• You may notice a warm, stinging, or burning sensation. This is a normal response related to the action of the capsaicin. It usually lessens or disappears after the first few days of use, but it may last up to four weeks or longer. Heat, humidity, clothing, warm water, and/or sweating can increase this feeling. Reducing the times a day you apply the capsaicin does not decrease the sensation, and doing so may decrease the amount of relief you get or make it take longer for you to get relief.

• Wash your hands with soap and water after applying capsaicin to your affected areas to keep from getting it in your eyes or other sensitive parts of your body. If you are using it for neuralgia or arthritis of your hands, then you don't want to wash it off.

• Once capsaicin does begin to relieve your pain, you must continue to use it on a regular basis as instructed to keep your pain from returning.

So, if your feet are bothering you, talk with your healthcare provider about the use of capsaicin. Maybe the heat of capsaicin will give your feet just the kick they need to start feeling better.


Read Joy's bio here.

Read more of Joy Pape's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

PREVIOUS: Alternatives for Your Aching Feet, Part 1

Last Modified Date: July 08, 2013

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by Brenda Bell
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