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Quick Facts

Neuropathic Pain


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Sep 2019| Content last modified Sep 2019
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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:

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

  • Deep aching

  • 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:

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:

  • Pain medicine

  • Antidepressants

  • Physical therapy

  • Occupational therapy

  • Surgery if needed to ease pressure on a nerve

  • Electrical stimulation (TENS)

  • Nerve block

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