How to calm painful nerves with desensitization

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Because pain is so deeply wired in the brain as a danger signal, patients with pain often avoid touching or using painful areas. However, stimulation & use actually help some neuropathic pain conditions. “Graded desensitization”, by stimulating nerves just enough to be uncomfortable, resets painful nerves in some pain conditions.



Using body lotion, apply gentle pressure over painful areas in a circular motion for 5–10 minutes for 3–4 times a day

If a topical pain medication has been prescribed, it may be applied over the area gently in a circular motion as directed by the prescriber


Find a clean spoon or comb and use it to gently tap the painful area, at a regular pace about once per second, for 1 minute each time


Throughout the course of the day, gently stretch joints arond the painful area, either with active movement or with the help of a non-painful hand.



Find clean pieces of cloth and gentle rub the painful area for 1 minute. Use different fabrics with different textures to provide different amounts of stimulation, for example: cotton, velvet, terry cloth, polyester, corduroy, & wool


Put dry rice, macaroni, or kidney beans into a container, dip the affected hand/foot to provide a different level of stimulation. Progress to moving the hand/foot in the container for even more stimulation.



For the more intense stimulation, find a clean electric shaver or electric toothbrush and use the vibration of the machine to gently stimulate the painful areas

Contrast bath

Using a thermometer, fill one container with cold water and another one with warm water. Dip the affected hand/foot alternately in the cold and then the warm water for a specified amount of time. This must be guided by a clinician. Inspect the skin to ensure no wounds or open skin.


  1. Graded desensitization is not for everyone. It must be designed and led by a pain physician or a physical therapist
  2. Apply just enough stimulation to be uncomfortable without causing pain
  3. Some pain physicians prescribe as-needed pain medications 30 minutes before each session. Some doctors believe the role of pain interventions is to enable more desensitization.