Nerve Pain

Nerve Pain

Nerve pain is also called neuropathic pain or neuralgia. It usually occurs when a health condition or a disease affects the nerves that carry various signals to the brain. Nerve pain often feels like a stabbing, shooting, or burning sensation. Depending on the cause, it can be as sudden and sharp as an electric shock. People with neuralgia are often susceptible to cold and touch and can experience severe pain as a result of stimulus that would not be painful for healthy people, such as brushing the skin or touching objects.

Symptoms

The symptoms of neuropathic pain may vary slightly in each person, but the following symptoms are common:

  • Stabbing, shooting, or burning pain
  • Tingling sensations and numbness. People also refer to this as “pins and needles” feeling
  • Pain that radiates along the nerve path. For example, people with sciatica experience sciatic nerve pain in the buttocks, thigh, and leg. 
  • Pain that is sensitive to cold temperatures or touch
  • Emotional problems due to chronic nerve pain, such as loss of sleep, depression, and difficulty expressing how you are feeling

Treatment Options

Treatment

A goal of nerve pain treatment is to identify and diagnose the underlying condition that’s responsible for the troublesome symptoms and treat them. The most common treatment options for neuropathic pain include:

Non-surgical options

OTC pain medication

Over the counter pain killers such as NSAIDs (Aleve and Motrin), are sometimes used as a first-line treatment to treat neuropathic pain. However, these medicines are not effective for most neuropathic pains because they don’t target the pain source.

Prescription medication

There is a long list of prescription medications that can be used to treat nerve pains of varying intensity. These may include opioids, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and steroids. Topical pain relievers, such as prescription-strength ointments and creams, lidocaine patches, and capsaicin patches, can also be used.

Therapies

Different therapies, such as massage, physiotherapy, and TENS, can be used to treat mild to moderate nerve pain. Alternative medicine options such as acupuncture, acupressure, and chiropractic treatment are also useful options for certain types of neuropathic pains. 

Surgical Options

Several surgical interventions may help reduce the symptoms if medications and other therapies have proven ineffective in treating nerve pain.

Microvascular decompression

This procedure involves microsurgical exposure of the affected nerve root and identification and decompression of a blood vessel that might be compressing the nerve.

Radiofrequency rhizotomy

It uses electrocoagulation (heat) to treat neuropathic pain.

Stereotactic radiation 

This method uses computer-guided radiation to aim at an appropriate target (nerve). As a result of radiation exposure, the nerve interrupts sending pain signals to the brain.

Glycerol rhizotomy 

It utilizes glycerol injected into the surrounding area of the painful nerve. The goal is to damage the diseased nerve to prevent the transmission of the pain signals to the brain.

Dr Ayman Eissa
MBBCh, MSc, MD, FRCA, FMFPRCA

Ayman is a Consultant in Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine at Sheffield Children’s Hospital and is also a specialist in the management of chronic pain in adults.

01709 464200

enquiries@kinvarahospital.co.uk 

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