What is neuropathic pain?
"Neuro-" refers to the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Neuropathic pain is pain that comes from damage or problems in your nerves, spinal cord, or brain.
Neuropathic pain is usually caused by nerve damage from an injury or a medical problem
Symptoms can include burning or tingling sensations, feeling extra sensitive to touch or cold, or deep aching pain
Neuropathic pain is hard to treat, but antidepressants and anticonvulsants (drugs for seizures) often help
What causes neuropathic pain?
Causes of neuropathic pain include:
A nerve that's pinched, such as by a tumor, carpal tunnel syndrome Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Carpal tunnel syndrome is pain, numbness, and tingling in your fingers and hand. Those feelings are caused by pressure on a nerve in your wrist. The carpal tunnel is a space (channel) on the... read more , or a herniated disk Herniated Disk A herniated disk occurs when the tough covering of a disk in the spine tears or ruptures. The soft, jelly-like interior of the disk may then bulge out (herniate) through the covering. Aging... read more in your spine
Nerve damage from a disease, such as diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more or shingles Shingles After you've had chickenpox, the virus that caused it stays in your body all your life. If the virus becomes active again, you get shingles. Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful... read more
Nerve damage during surgery
Doctors often have to cut nerves during surgery, particularly major surgery like a mastectomy or amputation. Sometimes this leads to chronic neuropathic pain. If you had an amputation, it may feel like the amputated limb is still there and is very painful. This is called phantom limb pain.
What are the symptoms of neuropathic pain?
Symptoms of neuropathic pain include:
Burning or tingling feeling
Extreme sensitivity to heat, cold, or a light touch
Neuropathic pain is often present when nothing painful is happening to you.
Neuropathic pain can make it hard to work and do other normal daily activities, which can make you anxious or depressed. Anxiety and depression can also make neuropathic pain feel worse. Not doing normal activity also makes your muscles weak, so you become even less active.
How can doctors tell if I have neuropathic pain?
Doctors can tell you have neuropathic pain from asking about your symptoms and doing a physical exam. Sometimes, to find out the cause of the neuropathic pain, they do tests such as:
MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) MRI is a test that uses a machine with a powerful magnet to make pictures of the inside of your body. A computer creates a series of detailed pictures. Each picture looks like a slice taken... read more (magnetic resonance imaging) of head, spine, or part of body in pain
How do doctors treat neuropathic pain?
Doctors will treat the cause of your neuropathic pain, if it can be identified. They'll also treat neuropathic pain with:
Surgery if needed to ease pressure on a nerve
Electrical stimulation (TENS)