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Nerve Pain

Nerve Pain

Everything you need to know about Nerve Pain

Neuropathic pain is frequently a chronic pain condition. Chronic, progressive nerve disease is the most common cause, but it can also be caused by an injury or infection.

If you have chronic neuropathic pain, it can flare up at any time, even if there is no evident source of pain. While acute neuropathic pain is unusual, it can happen.

Non-neuropathic pain (nociceptive pain) is usually caused by an accident or illness. If you drop a heavy book on your foot, for example, your neural system transmits pain signals almost instantaneously.

The pain in neuropathic pain isn’t usually triggered by an incident or injury. Instead, your body delivers unprompted pain messages to your brain.

 

In the human body, there are three types of nerves:

  • Autonomic nerves. Heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and temperature regulation are all controlled by these nerves, which are involuntary or partially voluntary.
  • Motor nerves. These nerves provide information from your brain and spinal cord to your muscles, controlling your movements and actions.
  • Sensory nerves. These nerves provide data from your skin and muscles to your spinal cord and brain. After that, the information is processed to allow you to experience pain and other sensations.

Types of Nerve Pain

Different nerves and areas of the body are affected by different types of neuropathy.

Damage to a single nerve is called mononeuropathy, while damage to two or more nerves in various areas is called multiple mononeuropathies.

Polyneuropathy is a term that describes the damage to multiple nerves that occurs in most situations.

The sections below will explore some of the numerous types of neuropathy and how they affect the body.

Nerve Pain of the peripheral nerves

The peripheral nervous system is affected by peripheral neuropathy, which is a type of nerve injury. The peripheral nervous system relays information between the brain and the rest of the body.

Peripheral neuropathy can affect the body’s extremities, including:

  • Feet
  • Legs
  • Arms
  • Hands

Autonomic Nerve Pain

Autonomic nerve pain is a condition that affects the nerves that govern internal organs and regulate vital functions including breathing and digesting.

Autonomic nerve pain can cause a range of problems that can affect the heart, blood pressure, and digestive system.

Focal neuropathy

Damage to a single nerve in one of the following areas of the body causes focal neuropathy:

  • Head
  • Hand
  • Torso
  • Leg

A type of focal neuropathy is Bell’s palsy. On one side of the face, this syndrome causes abrupt weakening or paralysis.

Focal neuropathy can also produce double vision, as well as abrupt weakness or pain in the front of the thigh and other body parts.

Proximal Nerve Pain

Proximal neuropathy is an uncommon type of nerve injury. The hip, buttock, or thigh might be affected by this sort of nerve injury, which normally affects only one side of the body.

Proximal neuropathy can result in extreme discomfort, difficulties moving, weight loss, and muscle loss.

Diabetic neuropathy

High blood sugar levels are caused by diabetes. This can harm the blood arteries that supply the nerves with oxygen and nutrients over time.

The nerves struggle to operate normally due to a lack of oxygen and nourishment.

Diabetic neuropathy can comprise any of the above categories of neuropathy, but peripheral neuropathy affects up to 50% of patients with diabetes.

Compression mononeuropathy

Damage to a single nerve caused by a compression injury or blood vessel illness is known as compression mononeuropathy. Blood vessel narrowing can reduce blood flow to the nerves, decreasing their function.

Nerve compression can occur when they pass over a joint or via a narrow path in the body due to injury or repetitive strain.

The most prevalent example is carpal tunnel syndrome, which is caused by compression of the median nerve at the wrist.

When using their hands or sleeping at night, people may suffer tingling, numbness, or swelling in their fingers.

Phantom limb syndrome

Phantom limb syndrome is a neuropathic pain condition. People may feel pain or sensations in a missing limb. Burning, prickling, or shooting pains are all possibilities.

Nearly 80% of patients who have had a limb amputated will develop phantom limb syndrome. Phantom limb syndrome may be caused by mixed signals from the brain and spinal cord.

Symptoms usually fade within the first six months after surgery, although they can last for years.

Trigeminal neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is caused by compression or injury to the trigeminal nerve in the head. The trigeminal nerve can be damaged by a stroke, MS, or facial surgery.

This kind of neuropathy can result in severe facial pain. Pain might be triggered by everyday tasks such as brushing one’s teeth or washing one’s face.

Postherpetic neuralgia

Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a consequence of shingles. PHN can impact areas of the body where there was a shingles rash.

Approximately 10–18% of people with shingles will acquire PHN, and older adults with shingles are more prone to develop it.

Thoracic or lumbar radiculopathy

A kind of mononeuropathy that affects one or both sides of the chest or abdominal wall is thoracic or lumbar radiculopathy.

This kind of neuropathy is more common in those with type 2 diabetes. They usually recover over time.

Symptoms of Nerve Pain

The symptoms of neuropathic pain vary from person to person, although the following are common:

  • Pain that is shooting, burning, or stabbing
  • Electric shocks
  • Tingling and numbness, or the sensation of being on pins and needles
  • Pain that happens without a stimulus is known as spontaneous pain.
  • Elicited pain is pain that is triggered by non-painful occurrences such as rubbing against something, being in cold temperatures, or brushing your hair.
  • A persistent uncomfortable feeling or unusual difficulties sleeping or resting
  • As a result of chronic pain, you may experience emotional issues, sleep loss, and difficulties expressing your feelings.

Nerve pain can be caused by simple touching, and it can persist even when there is no stimulation. Unexplained nerve pain is frequently severe at night, disrupting sleep. This can exacerbate the problem, as people require appropriate sleep to cope with pain.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will mostly diagnose nerve pain by listening to and examining you.

They will most likely test your nerves by assessing muscular strength, examining reflexes, and determining how sensitive you are to touch during the assessment.

You may be required to take tests such as:

  • Blood tests to assess your overall health and hunt for underlying diseases
  • Nerve conduction investigations are used to determine how rapidly electrical signals travel through your nerves.
  • A CT scan or an MRI scan to search for anything pressing against a nerve

Causes

Problems with the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord, or the nerves that go from there to the muscles and organs can cause nerve pain. It is frequently brought on by illness or injury.

Nerve pain can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including burning, tingling, electrifying, and pins-and-needles. But you’re not alone if you don’t know what’s causing your discomfort. Millions of people suffer from undiagnosed nerve pain. While traditional medicine can provide some help, there are a variety of additional options for pain management.

Typical causes include:

  • A brain, spinal cord, or nerve injury
  • Nerves with insufficient blood supply
  • Excessive drinking
  • After an amputation, phantom pain
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1) or vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Certain medications

Damage to the nerve causes nerve discomfort. Nerve injury can be caused by more than 50 medical disorders, medicines, and poisons, including:

  • Diabetes
  • HIV Infection, human immunodeficiency virus
  • Celiac disease is a type of gluten intolerance.
  • Trauma
  • Amyloidosis
  • Fabry’s disease
  • Medications – B6 (pyridoxine), isoniazid, HIV medicines, or chemotherapy.
  • Toxins, such as those produced by excessive alcohol consumption
  • Lupus and vasculitis and other autoimmune diseases
  • Deficiency of vitamin B12
  • Some cancers, such as lymphoma and myeloma
  • Lyme disease and other types of tick-borne illness
  • Hansen’s disease (leprosy)
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Blood vessel disease
  • Vascular malformations
  • Autoimmune conditions

A nerve that has been injured is more prone to begin acting strangely. It may go silent and send no information, resulting in numbness. It could also give out excessive and improper pain signals.

Nerve discomfort can also be caused by other conditions.

Sciatica is discomfort in the leg caused by pressure on the nerves in the lower back. Pins and needles, numbness, or weakness in the leg may accompany the discomfort.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome characterised by burning or agonising pain in various body areas. The aetiology is unknown, but it has been linked to mental discomfort and lack of sleep. There could also be hereditary influences.

Damage to the peripheral nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body causes peripheral neuropathy. Diabetes, autoimmune illnesses, and other circumstances cause it.

Looking for Nerve Pain Causes

Even after rigorous testing, the reason for nerve discomfort for many people remains unknown. Idiopathic neuropathy is the medical term for unexplained (idiopathic) nerve pain. Undiagnosed nerve pain could still be the result of nerve injury that occurred at some point in the past, but current medical knowledge and testing can’t identify how, when, or why.

Nerve pain affects around 15 million people in the United Kingdom, with the majority of instances having no known cause. It is particularly common in adults over the age of 60.

Prediabetes was found in nearly half of the patients in certain trials with unexplained nerve pain. Some researchers feel that prediabetes-related high blood sugar levels are to blame. By the time they are diagnosed, about 20% of persons with diabetes already have neuropathy.

Other investigations found that people with unexplained nerve pain also have metabolic syndrome, which includes high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, obesity, and prediabetes. These variables could be contributing to the discomfort.

When to call a doctor

Anyone experiencing nerve discomfort should see a doctor for a comprehensive physical examination. Have your blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes examined. Tell your doctor about all of your medications and dietary supplements. Get tested for any recent viral infections or poisons you may have been exposed to. Also, tell the doctor about your entire family’s medical history.

Unexplained nerve pain can be treated with medical therapies, which you should explore with your doctor. However, while drugs can assist, they rarely reduce discomfort by more than half.

How is nerve pain treated?

Nerve pain can be treated in a variety of ways. The first step is to address the underlying cause if one exists.

Non-drug therapy like exercise, acupuncture, and relaxation techniques, as well as painkillers and a variety of other drugs, can help.

Nerve discomfort is notoriously tough to manage. Diabetes and vitamin B12 insufficiency, for example, can be treated. Otherwise, treatments seek to relieve pain directly. Medicines and non-medicine techniques are among the options.

Medication

Simple pain relievers such as aspirin, paracetamol, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can help with certain nerve discomfort (NSAIDs). Stronger medicines, such as opioids, are occasionally used, but they have serious side effects that can be hazardous in the long run and are addictive.

Many different medications can help relieve nerve discomfort. Medicines used to treat depression (such as amitriptyline and duloxetine) and seizures are among them (gabapentin, pregabalin and carbamazepine).

Non-medication treatments

Non-pharmaceutical therapy can aid in the understanding and management of pain. Among them are:

  • Counselling and education
  • Exercise
  • Acupuncture
  • Relaxation methods
  • Psychological treatments to help you feel more in control of your pain and less distressed
  • Physiotherapy

To inhibit the transmission of pain feelings to your brain, use transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).

A multidisciplinary pain clinic, where health specialists may work up a tailored pain treatment strategy, may be beneficial to people with chronic pain.

Other Treatments for Nerve Pain

Stimulation using electricity. An electrical signal is sent from a damaged nerve to your brain when you experience nerve pain. Some nerve pain remedies function by generating their own electrical impulses. These charges appear to inhibit or block pain signals, so lowering pain.

  • TENS. (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). A tiny device delivers a gentle electric current to your skin. TENS is easy and painless, although there is conflicting evidence that it helps with nerve pain.
  • PENS. (percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), also known as electroacupuncture, uses acupuncture needles to give electrical stimulation to the nerves. Although the American Academy of Neurology believes this treatment is likely useful in treating diabetic nerve pain, it is not generally available.
  • rTMS. Magnets are used to send electrical impulses into the brain during rTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation). While research on PENS and rTMS is limited, studies suggest that they may aid with nerve pain.

Other electrical stimulation techniques are more complicated and need surgery. Spinal cord stimulation, for example, is the implantation of a device in the body that transmits electrical impulses to the spinal cord. A surgeon would insert electrodes in the brain for deep brain stimulation (DBS). Doctors typically utilise these invasive techniques only after all other options have failed.

Outlook

If you don’t treat nerve pain and prevent it from getting worse, it might have a negative influence on your life.

This can lead to major disabilities and complications over time, such as depression, sleeping problems, anxiety, and more.

Researchers are learning more about why this condition occurs and what can be done to effectively cure it, which is good news. As a result, more therapy alternatives are available.

It may take some time to identify the best treatment options for you, but you and your doctor can work together to alleviate the symptoms of this painful condition.

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