What is neuropathic pain (nerve pain)?
Neuropathic pain is a chronic pain condition resulting from injury or malfunction of the nerves or spinal cord. Consequently, nerve fibres send incorrect pain signals to the brain.
What are the symptoms of neuropathic pain?
Neuropathic pain is often described as burning, sharp, stabbing, shooting or like an "electric shock". Other symptoms include tingling and numbness. Light touch over the painful area may also cause pain. This is called allodynia.
What causes neuropathic pain?
Tissue injury from trauma, surgery, infection and even medical diseases may be associated with nerve damage and subsequently lead to neuropathic pain states. Some of the common causes of neuropathic pain include:
- Sciatica (Low back pain with slipped intervertebral disc and associated leg pain)
- Chronic post-surgical pain (persistent pain over incision after surgery)
- Phantom limb pain following amputation
- Post-herpetic neuralgia (persistent pain following shingles)
- HIV infection
- Diabetic neuropathy (diabetes mellitus-related nerve disorder)
- Trigeminal neuralgia
What should I do if I have symptoms of neuropathic pain?
You should see a doctor to confirm the diagnosis. Your doctor will conduct an interview and physical examination. He may ask you specific questions regarding your pain, including onset, nature and triggering factors.
How is neuropathic pain treated?
Neuropathic pain is difficult to treat and may not be fully reversible. However, partial to marked improvement is often possible with proper treatment. Neuropathic pain does not respond completely to traditional painkillers such as paracetamol, anti-inflammatory agents, codeine and morphine. On the other hand, anticonvulsant and antidepressant medication have been demonstrated to be effective in treating this form of pain. In cases where pain is still not controlled with medication, a pain specialist may use nerve blocks or other invasive treatment to manage your pain.