Nerve Pain

Nueropathic (Nerve) Pain

Neuropathic pain can be mild or severe. It might come and go, or it might linger. Diseases like diabetes, shingles and central nervous system disorders can cause it. People with neuropathic pain might need a combination of different treatments, including medication, physical therapy, psychological counseling and surgery.

What is neuropathic pain (nerve pain)?

Neuropathic pain is nerve pain that can happen if your nervous system malfunctions or gets damaged. You can feel pain from any of the various levels of your nervous system, including your peripheral nerves, your spinal cord and your brain. Your central nervous system consists of your spinal cord and brain. Peripheral nerves are the ones that spread throughout the rest of your body to places likes organs, arms, legs, fingers and toes. Damaged nerve fibers send the wrong signals to pain centers in your body, resulting in neuropathic pain. Nerve function may change at the site of nerve damage and in areas in your central nervous system (central sensitization). Neuropathy is a disturbance of function or a change in one or several nerves. About 30% of neuropathy cases occur due to diabetes, but hundreds of other diseases — like shingles, HIV/AIDS and alcohol use disorder — can cause it, too.

What are the symptoms of neuropathic pain?

Neuropathic pain symptoms may include one or more of the following:

  • Pain that happens for no apparent reason (spontaneous pain): This might include a burning, stabbing, or electric shock-like pain, tingling, numbness, or a “pins and needles” feeling.
  • Allodynia: This occurs when normally painless stimuli — like cold, pressure or brushing against your skin — causes you to feel pain. It’s an extreme sensitivity to touch.
  • Hyperalgesia: This happens when normally painful stimuli — like heat or pinpricks — cause an extreme or increased pain sensation. (For example, the pinprick hurts more than it should.)
  • Hypoalgesia: This occurs when a normally painful stimulus results in a decreased pain response. (For example, the pinprick should hurt but it doesn’t.)
  • Dysesthesia: This refers to any unexpected sensations that feel strange, unpleasant or painful.
  • Insomnia: Difficulty sleeping. You may also have emotional stress due to disturbed sleep and pain.

What causes neuropathic pain?

Causes of neuropathic pain can include:

  • Alcohol use disorder.
  • Diabetes.
  • Facial nerve conditions.
  • Central nervous system disorders like stroke, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS).
  • Complex regional pain syndrome.
  • Shingles.