What is neuropathic pain?
Neuropathic pain is pain resulting from damage or disease affecting the nervous system including the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and peripheral nervous system (nerves). Causes of pain include trauma, damage to nerves from disc herniation or bone spurs, viral infections, cancer, chemotherapy, alcoholism, neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis and diabetes. In some cases, the origin of the neuropathic pain is unknown.
How is neuropathic pain diagnosed?
Neuropathic pain can be described as burning, stabbing, throbbing, electrical, prickling, or pins and needles sensation. The affected area of pain may be more sensitive to touch (hyperalgesia) or even painful to touch, a condition known as allodynia. Clothing, shoes or blankets may be sensed as uncomfortable. The pain is commonly worse at night time.
What is the treatment of neuropathic pain?
Neuropathic pain can be difficult to alleviate. Anti-inflammatory medications and muscle relaxants are usually not effective. Anticonvulsant (antiseizure) medications and antidepressant medications may be effective in alleviating neuropathic pain. Topical medications such as lidocaine (numbing anesthetic) and capsaicin may add additional therapeutic relief.
Interventional therapies such as spinal cord stimulation may be considered in patients with neuropathic pain if medications fail to provide satisfactory relief. A spinal cord stimulator is an implanted device that sends electrical signals directly to the spinal cord to reduce the painful sensations perceived by the brain from a painful area of the body.