Neuropathic pain is a type of chronic pain caused by damage or dysfunction of the nervous system. It can result from injury, infection, disease, or trauma to the nervous system. Neuropathic pain can be excruciating and debilitating, making it impossible to work or enjoy everyday life.
Unfortunately, it can also be notoriously difficult to treat, and most conventional treatments provide mild relief at best. That’s because neuropathic pain originates from the pain pathways, so treating it requires a specialized approach.
Signs and Symptoms of Neuropathic Pain
Neuropathic pain can cause a wide range of symptoms depending on the type and severity of the injury or condition. Some common signs of neuropathic pain include:
- Burning or tingling sensations
- Shooting or stabbing pains
- Pins and needles sensations
- Sensitivity to touch or temperature
- Electric shock-like sensations
- Numbness or weakness
- Changes in skin color
- Loss of sensation
Causes of Neuropathic Pain
Some of the most common causes of neuropathic pain include:
- Spinal cord injury
- Multiple sclerosis
- Nerve compressions
- Traumatic injury
- Traumatic injury to the nerves
Why Neuropathic Pain is Difficult to Treat
The answer to this question lies in understanding how neuropathic pain develops. When there is damage or dysfunction to the nervous system, it can cause changes in how nerves send and receive signals. This can result in “false” pain signals being sent to the brain even when there is no injury or illness present.
This is why standard pain medications often do not work well for neuropathic pain. In most cases, these medications block pain signals from passing through the nerve fibers to the pain centers in the brain. But when the pain originates from the nerve fibers, it becomes much harder to manage.
Another reason traditional pain medications don’t work well for neuropathic pain is that the site of the pain is not always the origin of the pain. For instance, a pinched nerve in the neck can cause pain that radiates down the arm, hand, and fingers. In this case, localized treatments would not be effective because the pain is not coming from the hand.
Last but not least, because there is not always a clear-cut cause for neuropathic pain, it can be challenging to determine a practical course of treatment.
Are There Effective Treatments?
While neuropathic pain can be difficult to manage, there are some effective treatment options available. These include antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, nerve blocks, and opioids. Other treatment options include intravenous ketamine, electrical nerve stimulation, and capsaicin cream.
Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for neuropathic pain, so working with a pain specialist is the best way to find the best possible treatment for your individual needs.
Neuropathic pain can be difficult but not impossible to treat. If you think you may have neuropathic pain, it’s important to work with your doctor and develop a personalized treatment plan for managing your pain. While there is no outright cure for neuropathic pain, finding the right treatment can help you get the relief you deserve.