Neuropathic pain is a broad, catch-all term for a wide range of pain conditions caused by injury or changes to nerves. Common sensations include a range of pains from tingling to stabbing sensations. The area of the body that neuropathic pain impacts, its severity and other symptoms can vary greatly. Among the most common neuropathic pain conditions is peripheral neuropathy, which is when the condition is affecting nerves aside from the central nervous system (which is made up of the brain and the spinal cord).
Similarly, a broad range of treatment options exists, though most aim to manage pain rather than to “cure” neuropathic pain. As with most pain conditions, addressing the underlying cause is often the most effective treatment option, though in some cases, there is no clear cause for the pain. In these instances, they are pains known as idiopathic neuropathy. In this article, we explore both common types of neuropathic pain as well as some of the treatment options.
Types of Neuropathic Pain
Sciatica is a type of neuropathic pain typified by radiating pain that begins in the lower back or pelvic area and shoots down one or both legs. More than 3 million cases of sciatica are diagnosed in the United States every year, making it one of the predominant causes of neuropathic pain. The sciatic nerve is one of the largest in the body and sciatica can be caused by a number of things, such as spinal stenosis, a problem with spinal discs or an injury to the pelvic area.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome, also known as median nerve compression, is a neuropathic pain condition in which a pinched nerve in the wrist causes numbness and tingling in the corresponding hand. As with sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome is incredibly common. Many people suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome because of injury associated with repetitive movements. However, carpal tunnel syndrome can also be caused by other conditions such as diabetes, pregnancy, certain types of arthritis, hypothyroidism and more. If carpal tunnel syndrome is predicating by another condition like diabetes, management of the primary condition is ideal for effectively treating the neuropathic pain. However, because diabetes, arthritis and the like are chronic illnesses, a good neuropathy treatment plan to manage pain is also advised. In some cases, surgery may even be a suitable treatment option for carpal tunnel syndrome, though nonsurgical methods are often sufficient if the condition is caught early on.
Diabetic neuropathy is common in those suffering from diabetes, and can in part usually be attributed to high blood sugar over long periods of time. The best way to minimize the effects of diabetic neuropathy is to work closely with your doctor to manage blood sugar levels. Additionally, there are four different types of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral, autonomic, proximal and focal. The most common type of diabetic neuropathy treated in our practice is peripheral, and it usually affects the hands and feet — though in some cases, it may affect other areas of the body as well. This type of neuropathic pain is typified by burning, tingling, and numbness.
Shingles occur when the virus that caused the chickenpox reactivates in a person later on. Though shingles itself is a serious condition, some folks will continue to suffer from pain after the shingles have subsided. This complication is known as postherpetic neuralgia. While this neuropathic pain condition typically does not last forever, it can persist for months, meaning that professional help to manage pain through neuropathy treatment is in order. A range of prescription medications, both oral and topical, can be used in the treatment of postherpetic neuralgia. Talk to your doctor if you are still in pain even after getting over the shingles.
Central pain syndrome
Central pain syndrome is a neuropathic pain condition that can be caused by stroke, multiple sclerosis, tumors, epilepsy, brain or spinal cord trauma or Parkinson’s disease. Although pain is almost always constant in people suffering from central pain syndrome, it can vary in terms of severity from moderate to severe. Furthermore, pain can be aggravated by a number of factors including temperature, movement, touch or even emotions. Central pain syndrome differs from peripheral neuropathic pain in that it directly affects the central nervous system.
As with all medical issues, you will want to be sure to discuss any plans for treatment with a licensed medical practitioner. Only a health provider who is familiar with both your health history, current condition and the neuropathic pain condition you are suffering from is qualified to dispense any type of advice. Neuropathy treatment often includes prescription, medications, physical therapy, nerve stimulation therapy or other therapies. The approach (or combination of approaches) that is used will be highly dependent on your situation.
If you or a loved one suffer from any of the neuropathic pain conditions outlined above, or if you have another condition that is causing you pain, please do not hesitate to call us for a consultation. Our providers have decades of experience and pain relief is our specialty.