While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a handful of medications for treating nerve pain (neuralgia or neuropathy), they may not be effective for every patient. If you’re struggling to manage your nerve pain and have tried additional measures like peripheral nerve stimulation, you may be interested in trying an experimental therapy in a clinical trial.
Clinical trials are research studies that recruit people living with conditions such as nerve pain to try new treatments. They help investigators determine whether they’re safe and effective to use in the general population. Many people join nerve pain clinical trials to get access to experimental treatments they normally couldn’t try — there’s also the added benefit of helping to advance science and medicine.
Current clinical trials are investigating dozens of new treatments for different types of nerve pain. We’ll cover these treatments for the most common types of nerve pain, including diabetic peripheral neuropathy, chemotherapy-induced nerve pain, and trigeminal neuralgia. Below are examples of currently running clinical trials that represent new directions of research for easing nerve pain.
Learn more about...
Clinical Trials for Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is one of the most common complications of type 2 diabetes, affecting nearly half of people living with the disease.1 It causes shooting or burning nerve pain in the legs and feet, negatively affecting mobility and quality of life. Doctors and researchers are looking into several different treatments for diabetic peripheral neuropathy, including:2-10
- Dietary supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids that may help reduce inflammation contributing to nerve pain
- Non-invasive nerve stimulation treatments as an alternative to current therapies that use electrodes inserted underneath the skin near damaged nerves
- New oral therapies that offer alternatives to anti-seizure medications, antidepressants, and opioid pain relievers
- Wearable medical devices designed to take pressure off the feet and promote wound healing
- Gauging the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy in reducing pain from peripheral diabetic neuropathy as compared to more standard education about the condition
- Interventions to address disparities in social determinants of health in order to decrease the incidence and severity of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, which occurs more frequently and with greater severity in socioeconomically disadvantaged populations
Clinical Trials for Chemotherapy-Induced Neuropathy
Some people who receive chemotherapy to treat their cancer develop peripheral neuropathy in the feet, legs, hands, and arms. This is because the powerful medications used in chemotherapy damage the nerves, causing a burning, tingling, or numbing sensation.9 Undergoing cancer treatment can be overwhelming and stressful, and nerve pain caused by life-saving treatments can negatively impact your quality of life and can even force a change in your treatment if the pain becomes too severe to tolerate.
Investigators are looking into new approaches for treating chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, including:12-17
- Vitamin supplementation with nicotinamide riboside (a form of vitamin B3)
- Alternative therapies such as acupressure and acupuncture to relieve nerve pain in specific areas
- Diet and exercise plans to help reduce inflammation that may be contributing to nerve pain symptoms
- Treatment with a form of botulinum toxin, which has been shown to block the release of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) responsible for sending pain signals
- Using a medication called metformin, long used for treating diabetes, but which recently has been shown to protect against chemotherapy-induced neuropathy in mice
Clinical Trials for Trigeminal Neuralgia
Trigeminal neuralgia is a severe type of searing or burning nerve pain that typically affects one side of the face. It can cause uncomfortable and even debilitating symptoms lasting a few seconds up to a few minutes.15 Investigators are looking for new ways to treat trigeminal neuralgia, including:18-22
- Dietary changes to potentially help rebuild the fatty coating covering nerve cells (known as myelin) to help reduce nerve pain
- Repurposing approved migraine medications to help block pain signals in the brain
- Studying new seizure medications to help calm abnormal electrical signaling in the brain that may contribute to nerve pain
- Assessing the effect of radiothermal treatments applied to part of the trigeminal nerve on reducing both pain and inflammatory chemicals believed to cause the pain.
Joining a Nerve Pain Clinical Trial
Find Clinical Trials Near Me
Interested in clinical trials? Simply search by postal code and type of condition to see what’s going on in your area.
After reading about the new trends and treatments being studied for nerve pain, you might be interested in learning more about clinical trials near you. Deciding to participate in a clinical trial is an important decision — it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor and trusted family or friends about what’s involved and why you want to join. Your decision should be made with your health and best interests in mind.
If you decide you’d like to join a clinical trial, the next step is to search for studies nearby that you’re able to join. Investigators will post their requirements for joining online as eligibility criteria. These are a list of criteria you must meet (known as inclusion criteria) along with circumstances that may prevent you from joining (known as exclusion criteria). It’s important to remember that investigators set these criteria to help ensure that study participants are safe and that the data are as accurate and unbiased as possible.
Examples of inclusion criteria for nerve pain clinical trials might include being a certain age, having a specific type of neuropathy, or having previously tried and failed other treatment options. Examples of exclusion criteria in nerve pain clinical trials could be having other underlying health conditions that may interfere with study results or having a high body mass index (BMI).