Published on May 9, 2022
Vicks VapoRub is a medicated ointment that’s very popular as a cough suppressant. But it’s also a great topical analgesic that helps relieve joint and muscle pain.
Lately, the rumor has spread among neuropathy sufferers that Vicks VapoRub would also help with neuropathy pain.
Peripheral neuropathy is a painful condition that’s difficult to address and where standard pharmaceutical treatments often fail to provide relief. Patients often turn to alternative ways to manage the pain.
Is Vicks VapoRub really effective for nerve pain? Is it safe to use if you have diabetic neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is a damage to the peripheral nerves at the body’s extremities. It mostly affects the feet, and sometimes the hands.
The causes of peripheral neuropathy are diverse. The most common one is high blood sugar levels, and peripheral neuropathy concerns more than half of the people living with diabetes. Chemotherapy treatments, alcoholism, injuries, infections, and exposure to toxins may also cause neuropathy.
The symptoms and their intensity depend on the extent of the nerve damage as well as on the individual. While some people may not feel any pain and experience numbness or even a loss of sensation, others suffer from an increased sensitivity to touch, burning feet sensation, tingling, prickling, cramps, sharp pain, or others.
As of today, science has not found any ways to cure or reverse diabetic peripheral neuropathy. And while standard medicated treatments often fail, many nerve pain sufferers turn to alternative pain-relief products.
Vicks VapoRub is a very popular topical ointment made by Procter & Gamble, a U.S. personal care company. It’s been on the market for over 100 years!
While it was meant to relieve cold symptoms, people use it for many reasons and claim its effectiveness in numerous fields, including peripheral neuropathy. So, can Vicks Vap Rub really help with neuropathy pain? Let’s dig in!
Its formula is based on 3 active ingredients: camphor (4.7%), menthol (2.6%), and eucalyptus oil (1.2%). Other ingredients include cedar leaf oil, nutmeg oil, petrolatum, thymol, and turpentine oil.
Vicks Vapo Rub is listed on the list of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Treatments for Peripheral Neuropathy established by the Neuropathy Action Foundation. It says: “Massaging one’s feet with Vicks, particularly at night, soothes neuropathy pain and distress in one’s feet and legs (…)“.
The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy also mentions Vicks Vapo Rub as an effective over-the-counter topical for nerve pain.
There is no scientific evidence that the famous medicated ointment has any effects on peripheral neuropathy. However, its active ingredients are known to help with neuropathy.
Menthol is very popular among neuropathy sufferers and it’s found in plenty of neuropathy creams. It’s a strong natural pain reliever and its cooling effect is very appreciated for nerve pain and burning feet symptoms. One study from the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) has even found that topical menthol creams helped reduce nerve pain for people with chemotherapy-induced neuropathy.
Eucalyptus oil is another key essential oil for neuropathy. It helps relieve pain by bringing a cold or warm sensation to take the mind off the pain. Camphor is also proven to help relieve pain and inflammation and is often found in nerve pain creams.
Although it has helped relieve nerve pain for many neuropathy patients, Vicks vapor rub is not intended to be used for that purpose so the manufacturer has not set any specific instructions.
However, people who have reported using Vicks for neuropathy generally gently massage the affected area (the feet in most cases) for a few minutes. Some people rinse it off while others put socks on and go to bed.