Does Elevating Your Feet Help Neuropathy?

If you suffer from neuropathy, chances are you’ve already looked into ways to help ease the pain when it occurs.

This may have led to you finding information about the RICE principle—rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

It’s easy to see why resting your feet, massage, applying ice to the painful areas, and compression socks can help. But does elevating your feet help neuropathy pain, or does it make the sensations worse?

It might seem like an inconvenient thing to do, to raise your feet above the level of your heart. But it may be able to help ease your symptoms.

Here’s what we know about neuropathy and some of its possible treatments, including elevating your feet.

What Is Neuropathy?

Neuropathy—also called peripheral neuropathy—occurs when some of the nerves in the peripheral nervous system get damaged. This can be caused by injury or illness.

When these nerves are damaged, the neurons can no longer communicate effectively between the body and the brain.

This can lead to them firing incorrectly, which often results in pain, strange sensations, or discomfort in the feet, legs, or hands. The specific symptoms will depend on which nerves are damaged.

In most cases, when the wrong messages are being sent between the brain and the body, you will feel these strange sensations with no apparent reason.

But you may also experience a lack of pain when there is cause for pain, like if you stub your toe. Your nerves may not send the message through to the brain that your toe has been hurt, which means that you won’t feel any pain.

Why Is Neuropathy Worse at Night?

Many people who suffer from neuropathy have noticed that the pain, tingling, and other odd sensations in the legs and feet are much worse at night.

Research has shown that neuropathic pain is associated with sleep disturbances, and this can be due to several reasons.

In the evening, the ambient temperature changes and some people may set the thermostat a little lower at night, to get a good night’s rest.

But your body flows to a circadian rhythm and your internal body temperature will rise and fall at certain times during a 24-hour period.

When you go to bed, your core body temperature will drop and this signals the body that it’s time to sleep.

However, when you have neuropathy, the signals that are meant to indicate a change in temperature may be received as pain signals instead.

Your heart rate also slows down when you’re preparing to sleep, which reduces blood flow and can increase painful sensations.

Your feet are far more sensitive to the cooler air, which can cause the tissues around your joints to contract. These contractions can pull on your nerve endings and can intensify the sensations.

Pay attention to the medication that you take at night, as it may cause your neuropathy to flare up.

Sometimes you may just need to change the time when you take the medication so that it affects you less or the dosage may need to be adjusted.

You should also remember that stress and high levels of emotion can affect both your brain and your body.

When you’re very stressed, your sleep may suffer and you may be more receptive to pain and sensation from neuropathy.

There may also be a chain reaction. When you aren’t sleeping well due to stress, your immune system may suffer and your stress may increase, leading to worse pain.

Does Elevating Your Feet Neuropathy?

You may need to experiment with elevating your feet at night, as while it may work for some people, it might not work for everyone.

Try propping your feet up on pillows at night so that they’re above the level of your heart. This will help to prevent blood from pooling, reduce any swelling, and help to regulate blood flow to your feet and legs.

If elevating your feet doesn’t help, then try sleeping with your head and shoulders slightly raised. This will help to improve blood circulation, which could help to prevent tingling sensations and numbness.

What Else Can You Do to Reduce Pain From Neuropathy?

You may need to experiment with neuropathy home treatment to see what works best for you, as no two cases are the same.

Once you have found a few things that work well for you, you can default to them when you need pain relief.

If your feet are not extremely sensitive and you can handle having them wrapped, try to wrap yourself up in blankets or thick, warm clothing to warm up.

This will prevent your nerves from incorrectly interpreting cold as pain, which may lower your pain levels.

If your feet are sensitive and you can’t handle wrapping them in blankets or socks for neuropathy, it may help to soak them in warm water to warm up.

You will need to check the water temperature very carefully with your hands before placing your feet in it to make sure that it’s not too hot. If you can’t feel it properly, you may not realize that you’re burning yourself.

Exercise can be very effective to help reduce neuropathic pain. This is because it’s not only distracting and gives you something else to focus on, but it also helps to improve your circulation, which can help with pain relief and healing.

Alternatively, you can try to focus on a hobby or something that you’re very interested in to try and take your mind off of the pain.

It’s best to try a combination of these things and to experiment to see what works best for you. It may change over time, or even day to day, so don’t discount any of these methods if you try them once and they don’t work.

What Are Treatment Options?

Neuropathy isn’t curable at this stage, but there are some ways you can treat it to improve your quality of life.

You should consult your doctor before attempting any form of treatment. It’s important to identify the root cause of neuropathy, which could be either within the brain or an injury or illness that has attacked the nerves themselves.

The key to treating neuropathy is to treat its cause. In some cases, this can lead to improvement, but other times, it simply prevents the neuropathy from getting worse.

In these situations, it’s more of a management plan than a treatment plan.

Depending on the cause of your neuropathy, your doctor may be able to prescribe over-the-counter medications to relieve the pain and discomfort in the limbs.

If you have other symptoms that have arisen as a result of your neuropathy, your doctor will also be able to prescribe antidepressants or anti-seizure medication, depending on what you’re experiencing.

In severe cases, your doctor may recommend neuromodulation treatment. This is using electrical stimulation to treat pain, which can be applied to either the brain or the peripheral nerves.

When electrical stimulation is applied, it can help to regulate the nerves’ behavior. This can help with powerful pain relief.

Barrell, Kelsey, and A. Gordon Smith. “Peripheral Neuropathy.” Medical Clinics of North America, vol. 103, no. 2, Mar. 2019, pp. 383–397,
www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30704689/, 10.1016/j.mcna.2018.10.006
Accessed 11 Feb. 2022

Besedovsky, Luciana, et al. “Sleep and Immune Function.” Pflügers Archiv – European Journal of Physiology, vol. 463, no. 1, 10 Nov. 2011, pp. 121–137,
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256323/, 10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0.
Accessed 11 Feb. 2022

Ferini-Strambi, Luigi. “Neuropathic Pain and Sleep: A Review.” Pain and Therapy, vol. 6, no. S1, 24 Nov. 2017, pp. 19–23,
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5701896/, 10.1007/s40122-017-0089-y.
Accessed 11 Feb. 2022

Yu, Kai, et al. “Neuromodulation Management of Chronic Neuropathic Pain in the Central Nervous System.” Advanced Functional Materials, vol. 30, no. 37, 11 June 2020, p. 1908999,
www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adfm.201908999, 10.1002/adfm.201908999
Accessed 11 Feb. 2022