Nerve Pain

What is Nerve Pain?

Pain is supposed to serve as a warning to people when they get close to injuring themselves – ie a burning feeling in the hand when you are too close to a stove. Nerve pain is pain that occurs when damaged nerves send false signals to the brain to feel pain when there is no real cause.

Nerve pain is one of the most intense forms of chronic pain, and people may feel it differently. For some people it manifests and a stabbing pain during the night, while others may feel a dull pain throughout the whole day. It can be very hard to live a normal life when nerve pain is uncontrolled, but with the right treatment it can usually be controlled and allow for a decent quality of life.

Causes and Symptoms of Nerve Pain

The types of pain a person experiences are the primary symptoms of nerve pain. It typically manifests as pain that is:

  • Sharp
  • Feels like a shooting, “electrical” shock
  • Burning or hot
  • Feels like tingling – “pins and needles” or “prickling”
  • Stabbing

Symptoms can range from mild and bothersome to severe and disabling. The pain may occur all the time, or just in short bursts. It is usually worse at night or during periods of rest.

Nerve pain can be caused by a variety of factors:

  • Certain medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, can be the cause of nerve pain.
  • Diseases that affect the nervous system, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, or multiple myeloma, could also cause nerve pain.
  • Diseases that attack sensory nerves, like diabetes, or conditions that cause inflamed nerves, such as sciatica.
  • A result of trauma, such as with spinal cord injury, which nerves are damaged or completely severed. 
  • Phantom limb pain, which occurs when the brain sends pain signals toward a limb that was been amputated.

In some cases, there is no known cause for nerve pain – the origin is not completely understood or identifiable. One form of this is called reflex sympathetic dystrophy.

Treatment Options for Nerve Pain

Treatment for nerve pain focuses on addressing the underlying cause, if known. Finding the right treatment for patients with chronic nerve pain is often a trial and error process, but with persistence pain relief can normally be achieved. The vast majority of patients with nerve pain are treated with the following medications:

  • An antidepressant like duloxetine or amitriptyline
  • An anti-seizure medication like gabapentin or pregabalin

Opioid painkillers may be prescribed for nerve pain, but they are generally not as effective as other medications and the side effects may outweigh the potential benefits in most patients.

Additionally, one of the most severe side effect of nerve pain is a negative impact on quality of life and subsequent psychological issues – such as depression or anxiety. As such, treatment for nerve pain also focuses on alleviating symptoms enough for people to lead normal to semi-normal lives. Anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed.

Beyond medications, there are complementary treatments that have proven to help with nerve pain in some patients when used in conjunction with medication. These include:

Bone and Joint Healthcare at Adena Health System

The team of orthopaedic (bone and joint) specialists at Adena Health System strives to get you the best care available with the least amount of down time. The orthopaedic team at Adena follows a conservative approach to care — beginning with the least invasive treatment available -- in the hopes that more major care isn’t necessary. Need help finding a healthcare provider? Search Adena Health System online or call 740-779-FIND (3463).

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