Neuropathic pain or nerve pain is one of the most intense types of chronic pain, which can (over time) become crippling and begin to affect all aspects of your life. The term neuropathic pain encompasses a wide range of pain conditions caused by either injury or changes to nerve area and it is often described as stinging, sharp, or even burning pain.
Neuropathic pain can be caused by peripheral nerves (which extend out into our body) or central nerves (found in our brain and spinal cord), but the exact reason that causes it is not always clear—in fact, 30% of all types of neuropathic pain are of unknown origin.
Some forms of nerve pain are caused by congenital conditions that people are born with, while others may be the result of an illness that affects the nervous system or a trauma. Neuropathic pain is present in diseases such as diabetes, which attacks sensory nerves, but also in conditions where nerves are damaged or severed, e.g. spinal cord injury or amputation.
5 Most Common Types of Neuropathic Pain
While there are numerous types of neuropathic pain, some of the common ones include:
- Sciatica—One of the predominant types of neuropathic pain, with more than three million cases of sciatica diagnosed in the US every year. Patients often describe it as radiating pain which begins in their lower back or pelvic area and goes on to shoot down one or both legs. Sciatica can be caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve, which is the biggest nerve in our bodies.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome—Almost as common as sciatica, CTS is also known as median nerve compression. This neuropathic pain condition is the result of a pinched nerve in the wrist, and it causes numbness and tingling in the wrist, thumb, and fingers of the corresponding hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome has been known to mostly affect people with an injury associated with repetitive movements, e.g. typing away at our computers.
- Diabetic neuropathy—A condition most common among those suffering from diabetes. There are four types of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral, autonomic, proximal and focal, but the most common one is peripheral, which causes stabbing or burning pain in the hands and feet of diabetic patients.
- Central pain syndrome—This type of neuropathic pain can be caused by a variety of conditions, including stroke, tumors, multiple sclerosis, brain or spinal cord trauma, epilepsy or Parkinson’s disease. The intensity of the pain will depend on the extent of damage of the nervous system, and it can pain can even be worsened by a number of factors including temperature, touch, movement, or emotions.
- Postherpetic neuralgia—A complication that can occur in people who had shingles, i.e. after the varicella zoster virus (chickenpox) had reactivated within their body later in life. While this condition typically does not last forever, it can persist for months or even years, requiring people to seek medical attention.
Treatment of Neuropathic Pain Conditions
Neuropathy pain treatment often includes medication, physical therapy (ranging from physiotherapy to acupuncture), psychological therapy (seeing that stress can make your condition worse, in some cases sessions with a psychotherapist may be required), and nerve stimulation therapy, but the approach will always depend on your situation. As with all medical issues, you should discuss your options with a licensed medical practitioner who is familiar with your health history and current condition.
If you or your loved one are suffering from any of the conditions listed above, or feel any type of pain, do not hesitate to contact Dr. Best and his Neuroscience Center team. We will make an appointment for you and help you treat your condition in the best possible way.
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