Neuropathic pain has been found to be one of the most challenging chronic pain conditions to resolve. It can often be caused because of impairment or damage to our nerves which in turn evolves into acute, piercing, shooting, burning pain as well as tingling.
What I find really interesting about neuropathic pain, is the make-up of our nervous system. It has been found, after there has been damage to our nervous system, which may have been caused by long term compression or inflammation of the nerves, the nerves persist in conveying nerve signals to our brain. This continues even after the pressure on the nerves has been eliminated.
This nerve compression can often be found when suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome and sciatica. Neuropathic pain is also experienced with shingles, fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy, pelvic pain as well as post-surgical pain.
Fibromyalgia is quite a common condition which not only triggers widespread pain and muscle stiffness, it may also cause sleeplessness, fatigue and cognitive disorders such as depleted memory and concentration. It can cause mood swings and sometimes a sensitivity to light, heat, cold and even smells. A study conducted by the Verona University Hospital in Italy found supplementing with PEA may be helpful for sufferers of fibromyalgia. The study between 2013 and 2016 of 407 participants taking PEA found a significant increase in their Quality-of-Life score and a significant decrease in their Visual Analogue Pain Score. (1) Another study of 35 fibromyalgia patients, already taking pain medication, took 600mg of PEA over 12 weeks resulting in PEA reducing their overall pain. The average number of body tender points decreased from eight to one. (2)
Diabetic neuropathy A 8-week study of 30 patients suffering from diabetic neuropathy taking 600mg PEA per day found a reduction of the intensity and presence of pain, pins and needles, burning and numbness. (3)
Shingles (also known as herpes zoster). Anyone who has suffered from shingles will tell you just how painful shingles can be. I cannot believe how prevalent this condition is and with this in mind, I was extremely excited to read the studies on PEA and neuropathic pain. Shingles is caused by the same virus which causes chickenpox and usually arises after the age of 50 and quite often when our body has been under a lot of stress and our immune system has been challenged. It is believed around 20% of people will develop shingles.
Shingles causes a penetrating, severe, burning pain which is often difficult to treat and patients are often prescribed a number of analgesics. It is believed adding PEA to this treatment may also assist in decreasing the pain of shingles. In the past we have found L-Lysine to also be quite helpful. L-Lysine is an amino acid which may also reduce the replication of the herpes zoster virus and is often beneficial to take not only when suffering from shingles but also after as a maintenance/preventative. Many will know L-Lysine as a great treatment and preventative for cold sores which is caused by the herpes simplex virus. St John’s Wort is also often taken for the nerve pain of shingles and can also be used topically as a cream to be applied to the shingles blisters.
With so many people living with chronic pain, this natural fat-soluble molecule known as Palmitoylethanamide (PEA) may just be the powerful compound which can help reduce pain and inflammation in so many of these chronic conditions.
(1) Schweiger, Vittorio; Martini, Alvise; Bellamoli, Paola; Donadello, Katia; Schievano, Carlo; Balzo, Giovanna D; Sarzi-Puttini, Piercarlo; Parolini, Massimo; Polato, Enrico. CNS & Neurological Disorders – Drug Targets Volume 18, Number 4,2019, pp 326-333(8) Bentham Science Publisher DOI hhtps://doi.org/10.2174/1871527318666190227205359
(2) Gatti A,Lazzari M, Gianfelice V, Di Paolo A, Sabato E, Sabato AF. Palmitoylethanolamide in the treatment of chronic pain caused by different etiopathogenesis. Pain Med 2012 Sept;13(9):1121-20.doi:10.1111/j.1526-4637.2012.01432.x.
(3) Schifilliti C, Cucinotta L, Fedele V, Ingegnosi C, Luca S, Leotta C. Micronized palmitoylethanolamide reduces the symptoms of neuropathic pain in diabet patients. Pain Res Treat 2014:2014:849623.doi: