Neuropathic Pain and Benfotiamine
The first time I found out about neuropathic pain, it was not even mine.
I was living in Amiens, above a cafe, and had adopted the boss, the patronne, as a surrogate mother. I came home late from a laboratory class one night and I tried to figure out what I was looking at with a dim light only on in back. I found this 80 year old woman in the back room with her blouse undone and an older man apparently angry at her pointing his finger. I ran in and asked him to identify himself, as I was concerned for Madame, and there was apparently some difficulty. He was nearly as old as she and they were both laughing heartily indeed. That is how I met this noble “docteur du quartier” (neighborhood doctor) who was performing what he described as an “honest and beneficial auscultation” and prescribing for her chest cold.
His whole practice was cafe backrooms. His patients the cafe patrons, who often had no cars, or no place else to go for medical care. He practiced a simple medicine, and as I advanced in school and he knew what I was learning he told me all that was too technical for him, and he would leave that to the young ones, especially the girls like me, because girls pay a lot of attention to detail and remember everything. And girls are nice and take good care of patients because they care a lot and try very, very hard. He told me not to tell anybody he said that. I never told anybody he said that until just now.
I learned the good doctor was all too often paid in cocktails.
He went on to care for me in my first year of medical school, when I was down with the flu. I visited him more often than he needed to be visited on the neurological ward, where he later died. He had poly-neuropathy of the inferior limbs, so severe he could not walk with excruciating pain. I helped him to the bathroom and back, a few times; he was proud, and it was hard for him to use a bedpan. He had other complications of alcoholism. When he could not walk, his wife drove him to his appointments. There were not many medications; he would not take much of the pain medications. Sometimes he was out of the hospital for a little while; sometimes his wife drove him to appointments. I have never seen anyone deal with pain more nobly. I read about neuropathic pain, before it showed up in my curriculum, to understand.
I knew they gave him an awful lot of B vitamins, B1, B6, and B12, and the chief of neurology told me there was not much more that could help.
My adopted cafe mother and I attended his funeral, which was overcrowded with grateful patients. In the back, there was the neurology chief of service who had cared for him.
Peripheral neuropathy causes burning, devastating pain that interrupts lives. It can come from alcoholism or diabetes or a variety of other causes. Our dear government has come up with a fact sheet.
I have helped people with pain attributed to some of the causes cited; injury, diabetes, alcohol. With a combination of vitamins and supplements and emotional freedom technique, many of my folks have gotten better, and told me the pain was gone. While the vitamins are variable, I have generally used EmPower Plus and Emotional Freedom Technique.
Then came MY neuropathic pain. In the days when I was going into hospitals every few months with various comas and my husband unfortunately became accustomed to being told I would probably kick the bucket, I had at least one very painful episode, when I begged for very strong pain meds. Must have been terrible, for I blocked it from my own memory. If someone else had not told me about it later, I would never know I had it. Nobody seemed to know what to do, the friend told me, except to give me pain meds. I believe it was a brief foreshadowing of neuropathic pain, the same kind the old doctor had.
I went into my coma and then they treated me; apparently not half badly, as I pulled out.
Now, more recently, what I first thought was a clinically insignificant pain in my left back and thigh, slowly, over weeks, escalating to a burning pain I was fighting with emotional freedom technique and vitamins. No pain meds for me. I practice medicine for a living. I am NOT descending into the cloudy consciousness of someone on pain medicine, even if it is “legal.”
I believe in medicine.
I am not alcoholic and certainly do not have the wild blood sugars usually associated with this diabetic complication. My crazy metabolism, probably. The pain danced around my leg angrily as I continued both work and ballet and tap lessons when the pain was there. It came, it went; it was not radicular (like a slipped disc) although at first I thought it might be; it was not in my hip and I did not have an arthritic knee, although everything was on my left side (a common phenomenon; many people have a “weak side”) It was neuropathic pain, and I fought it, mostly by loading myself with B vitamins, taking exercise in the middle of the night, and all I could think of, including lots of emotional freedom technique.
I had real neuropathic pain. Now I am a great believer in thiamine, B1, one of the few vitamins that has made it into mainstream practice. Every drunk who gets a free ride to an emergency room gets some B1 to stop the development of pain and the inability to walk straight and focus the eyes and all sorts of things that happen when people drink and miss the necessary vitamins. Confabulation, Winsky-Korsakoff syndrome; no references on this one, for every doc in training in France and the U.S. knows that if you do not start some thiamine the minute you see such patients, the irreversible nerve damage continues. We are all told, we were told years ago, that this had been through the courts and even if you do not think the indigent patient is worth much you have to give this or else you will be sued by the patient and you will be dead meat.
I have given it hundreds of times, in such settings.
Now, I was trying to give myself as high a dose of thiamine and some other B vitamins, hoping to bolster what I believed, through self-examination, to be damaged nerves. I did pretty well, but no cigar, still fighting.
Then, I was reading about unrelated things when the universe, which works in wondrous ways, had me locate accidentally when reading somewhere about how to have beautiful and youthful skin, information about benfotiamine.
After WWII some Japanese had patented this liposoluble form of thiamine. Most things in both the central and peripheral nervous system, most especially the nerve sheaths that cover the nerves and make impulses travel along them as quickly and as efficiently as they do–are liposoluble. It made sense.
We found some links on line, but went with a local source. We found reports of clinical trials. We found testimonials.
I took it and immediately, the pain started turning to a paresthesia, a tingling, just the way pains do with a TENS unit. It has been less than 24 hours, and it is quite nearly gone. Clearly we can’t depend on the U.S. government fact sheet.
We can maybe depend on literature searches on the internet, but there are many worthless things. Me, I depend on the universe. Me, I tell others to depend on me, because I stop at nothing until I find something that works.