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Will Excess Vitamin B6 Damage Nerves?

Sometimes a vitamin supplement can help ease the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome, but excess vitamin B6 can be harmful.

Whether you utilize pharmaceutical medicines or look to natural remedies such as vitamins and minerals, you must make sure the treatment is not worse than the ailment. That is a significant danger of taking excess vitamin B6 to try to treat neuropathy or carpal tunnel syndrome.

Easing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

Q. I believe my friend has carpal tunnel syndrome from doing repetitive work at his job. Is there anything he can take for it that’s a natural anti-inflammatory?

A. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve in the wrist is pinched, often from repetitive motions. Symptoms can include numbness, tingling, burning and weakness in the hand or arm.

Doctors often recommend anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. Acupuncture was shown in one small study to be as good or better than ibuprofen for relieving pain, numbness and tingling at night (Hadianfard et al, Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, Oct. 2015). A review concludes that acupuncture “may be beneficial for CTS” [carpal tunnel syndrome] (Cox et al, Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, June 2016).

Physical Therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

When doctors want to treat this painful problem without surgery, they often recommend a brace or splint. A recent study found that people who did hand exercises squeezing a foam ball with rubber cords attached had slight improvement in their symptoms (Unver & Akyolcu, Asian Journal of Neurosurgery, Jan-Mar. 2018). A physical therapist would be able to instruct your friend on the best exercises for this problem.

Does Vitamin B6 Help Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) has been a controversial treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. Some clinicians maintain it is ineffective (Wipperman & Goerl, American Family Physician, Dec.15, 2016). Others say it works to ease symptoms (Talebi et al, Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin, online Aug. 20, 2013).

Beware Excess Vitamin B6:

We offer a word of caution about this nutrient, though. Large doses or prolonged treatment can cause nerve damage, as this reader discovered:

“I found out 30 years ago that taking Vitamin B6 helped me get rid of carpal tunnel syndrome. However, I made the mistake of continuing to take it for decades.

“I eventually developed B6 toxicity. By then it was having the opposite effect of making my hands AND feet numb. It took me a long time to figure out what was going wrong, since my doctor insisted there was no such thing as B6 toxicity. By trial and error I found that stopping the B6 made the numbness go away.”

Doctors have written about numerous cases of excess vitamin B6 causing nerve damage (Bacharach, Lowden & Ahmed, Journal of Clinical Neuromuscular Disease, Sep. 2017; Scott, Zeris & Kothari, Electromyography and Clinical Neurophysiology, Jun-Jul. 2008).

Usually any damage to the nerves caused by excess vitamin B6 is reversible once the vitamin is stopped. That is not always the case, however (Kulkantrakorn, Neurological Sciences, Nov. 2014). According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, adults should not take more than 100 mg a day. The recommended daily allowance is much less–1.3 mg per day for adults up to age 50 and a little bit higher than that for people over 51.

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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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