What is it?
Neuropathic pain is caused by damage or a malfunction of the nervous system. Diseases that affect and damage the nervous system can also cause neuropathic pain. Changes in nerve function at the site of injury or areas around it can be caused due to the impact of damaged nerve fibres. Damaged nerves send the wrong signals to pain centers within the brain.
There are two types of neuropathic pain:
Central neuropathic pain (CNP): This is a type of chronic pain that originates from dysfunction or damage to the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the brain and spinal cord. It is caused by the abnormal processing of pain signals within the CNS, leading to the perception of pain even in the absence of a specific painful stimulus or injury.
CNP can occur as a result of various conditions or injuries that affect the CNS, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or certain neurodegenerative diseases. In these cases, the damage or dysfunction disrupts the normal functioning of the nervous system and alters the transmission and interpretation of pain signals.
Peripheral neuropathic pain: This type of pain occurs when there is damage to the nerves located outside of the brain or spinal cord, known as peripheral nerves. Pain can originate with any nerves in different body parts, such as the arm or legs.
The pain is often described as burning or shooting pain. Pain can be felt from any of the various levels of the nervous system. Numbness, tingling, and abnormal sensations known as dysesthesia may also be associated with neuropathic pain. The pain can go away on its own but is often chronic.
An accurate diagnosis from your healthcare provider is crucial. Your doctor will try to find the underlying cause of neuropathic pain and trace the symptoms through medical history and physical exams. Doctors may also request both blood and nerve tests.
The treatment options will follow from proper diagnosis and may include a combination of interventions, medications, and physical and psychological therapies. Electrical stimulation of the peripheral nerves may control and relieve pain symptoms. Spinal cord and brain stimulation can also treat neuropathic pain if conservative treatments are not successful in managing the pain. The goal of the treatment is to treat the underlying disease, maintain the functionality of the nervous system, provide pain relief, and improve quality of life.
How does it occur?
It is not always easy to tell the source of neuropathic pain. There can be many conditions that cause neuropathic pain such as:
- Diabetes – responsible for about 30% of cases
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Multiple sclerosis
- Nerve or spinal cord compression from herniated discs
- Spine surgery
- Thyroid problems
- Spontaneous pain
- Evoked pain: pain brought on by normally non-painful stimuli such as cold and pressure
- Trouble sleeping, and emotional problems due to lack of sleep
- Pain that may be lessened in response to a normally painful stimulus
The contents contained within this page are not a substitute for health professionals’ advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We advise that you seek advice from a qualified healthcare practitioner. We fully disclose that any surgical or invasive procedures come with risks.
For more details on how to relieve or treat chronic pain, you can reach out to one of our pain specialists at any of our pain care clinic locations. We establish a caring relationship and provide patients with pain relief when needed the most.