The People's Perspective on Medicine

Will Alpha-Lipoic Acid Help Your Nerve Pain?

The natural compound alpha-lipoic acid has antioxidant properties. It has also been used successfully to treat neuropathic pain.

Nerve pain (neuropathy) can be excruciating, and the medications doctors prescribe to alleviate the pain don’t always help a great deal. However, alternative medications such as alpha-lipoic acid can sometimes be helpful. One reader relates a client’s experience.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid for Neuropathy in Feet:

Q. One of my massage clients had terrible pain and sensitivity in his feet after playing a lot of volleyball. His doctor prescribed Neurontin for neuropathy. After he took hundreds of Neurontin pills without results, I suggested alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) and a chiropractor to check the alignment of bones in his feet. His physician said that ALA was a good idea since he takes 300 mg daily himself.

My client was outraged that the doctor never recommended ALA for him. Instead, his massage therapist had to recommend it. He was to take 200 mg per day to start. In addition to the chiropractic treatments, this led to improvement. When I remember that giant bottle of Neurontin, I just cringe.

Treating Neuropathy with Alpha-Lipoic Acid:

A. Neuropathy (nerve pain) is notoriously difficult to treat. Physicians frequently prescribe gabapentin (Neurontin) or pregabalin (Lyrica) for this condition with mixed results.

Alpha-lipoic acid has been studied and found beneficial for alleviating diabetic neuropathy (European Journal of Endocrinology, Oct. 2012; Current Medical Research and Opinion, Aug. 17, 2018). Researchers hypothesize that its pain-relieving effects are related to its antioxidant activity (Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, Apr. 10, 2018).

A review of medical research found that nutraceuticals including vitamin B complex, alpha-lipoic acid, L-acetylcarnitine, vitamin E and Coenzyme Q may alleviate the pain of neuropathy (Current Drug Metabolism, 2018).  The supplements should be taken half an hour before meals to ensure good absorption.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I developed neuropathy in my feet after taking one Keflex pill. Then was switched to Macrobid. Took two pills. Had to stop. The neuropathy came back but has not gone away this time. The Nurse Practioner and Pharmacist had never heard of such a thing. The Antibiotics were for a UTI.

Has anyone experienced this kind of side effect from Keflex or other antibiotics?

I notice that you say to take some of these remedies one-half hour before eating, to ensure good absorption. Is this true about all vitamins? Only ones that are not fat soluble?

I would love to see an article about WHEN to take various vitamins and remedies.


Has anyone tried using ALA for the pain of post-herpetic neuralgia? I have it around my waist in the same area as the rash from the shingles virus.

My wife has been taking it for about 40 days and says it has dramatically reduced the incidence and intensity of her post-herpetic neuralgia pain.

I talk gabapentin for postherpetic neuralgia, brought on as an aftereffect of the shingles. Most of the literature about nerve pain relates to diabetic nerve pain.
I would like to hear more about PHN and whether, for example, alpha-lipoic acid
might be helpful for someone who has had shingles.

I have Non-diabetic neuropathy and was taking 2,600 mg of gabapentin a day. After 8 weeks of taking an Alpha Lipoic Acid capsule and B-12, I was able to cut the gabapentin in half. I now only take a 600 mg gabapentin tablet at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., and my foot nerve pain are no problem. I got that advice from Dr. Perlmutter, a Neurologist.

I have MS, I tried ALA for neuropathic nerve pain, I did not find it helpful for pain, but, an unexpected side effect was it made me weak. With MS walking is difficult enough even with rollator but that difficulty increased when I started taking ALS, needless to say, I stopped.

I was prescribed gabapentin for nerve pain following a knee replacement. After being on it for about two months, I noticed a distinct blurry vision problem; a side effect which is mentioned in their literature, but not mentioned by my doctor. I did some research and switched to Alpha-lipoc and a vitamin-B combination. It worked on the nerve pain and the blurry vision cleared up within a few weeks.

What about benfotiamine ?? for neuropathy / pain ??

I’ve had neuropathy for years. I do not have diabetes. I’ve tried Lyrica & Neurontin but could not take because of side effects. My doctor told me ALA may help. I took Alpha Lipoic Acid for several years. It did help somewhat but not that great. Someone told me that the Doctors Best “Stabilized R Lipoic Acid” was the best for treating neuropathy. It was more expensive that the regular lipoic acid so didn’t try. About three months I decided to try the Stabilized R Lipoic Acid and could not believe how much my neuropathy improved. It hardly bothers me at night anymore. I take 300 mgs but I could tell when starting the 100mg helped. Shop around. I found a well known retailer has 180 amount for $1.00 more than the 60 amount in bottle, at the same retailer. All I know is the Stabilized R Lipoic is the only thing that has helped my neuropathy.

200 mg of ALA to start but then increasing to ? – and what are the recommended dosages for the other recommended supplements?

Would ALA workfor atypical facial pain? I’m on gabapentin and doloxitine and not helping at all. Want to get off these meds.

I take Lyrica at night only for neuropathy that resulted from chemo and radiation. Then I had both knees replaced, and my dr prescribed a compounded formula that included neurontin in a cream base. It helped tremendously. I suffer from osteoarthritis in my hands, fingers and spine. I would welcome something more natural. I do take magnesium at night. Sometimes I have to take celebrex when the pain becomes debilitating. I try only to take it occasionally, and it works. I get my generic Celebrex from a pharmaceutical company that produces one of the brands most closely related to the original patent.

I have total success with 600 mg taken daily with a large breakfast. I infrequently, perhaps once a month, take another 600 mg later in the day for instant relief, and have not experienced any side effects.

Gabapentin and Lyrica had so many side effects that I had to research a different solution for my idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. I have been using a combination Alpha-lipoic acid/L-acetylcarnitine for about 7 years. No side effects. This combination has been used in Europe for many years. I also take Vitamins B & E, CoQ and Magnesium. The pain is gone! There is still some numbness in my toes but it hasn’t progressed.

Mary – Would you please provides a few more details about your ALA – Acetyl L Carnitine combination? My non-diabetic/idiopathic neuropathy causes me to stagger, as I progressively lose sensation from my toes up.

I have two pinched nerves in my neck, resulting in a constant headache. Has anyone tried Alpha-lipoic acid for pinched nerves?

When I heard of alpha-lipoic acid for nerve paid, I rushed to get it . I had been suffering from nerve pain in my feet for more than a year and eating Gabapentin like candy drops with little or no relief. But I soon learned that Alpha-lipoic acid brought on such terrible heartburn, I thought I was dying! I tried various amounts taken at various times, to no avail. The smallest amount would bring on the heartburn. I had to stop. Here I am almost four years later, and I still haven’t found anything that brings total relief. I’m taking 1800 mg. of Gabapentin and 60 mg. of Cymbalta daily. It’s better than nothing, but my life style has definitely changed. I use a cane to walk short distances and a scooter for longer trips.

I have been diabetic for more than 40 years and have been taking alpha lipoic 600 for around 15 years. I also take Co-Q10. I read a medical article from a German doctor who had written studies about alpha lipoic acid and diabetic neuropathy.

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