Neuropathic Pain (Nerve Pain)

  • Medical Author:
    Danette C. Taylor, DO, MS, FACN

    Dr. Taylor has a passion for treating patients as individuals. In practice since 1994, she has a wide range of experience in treating patients with many types of movement disorders and dementias. In addition to patient care, she is actively involved in the training of residents and medical students, and has been both primary and secondary investigator in numerous research studies through the years. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine (Department of Neurology and Ophthalmology). She graduated with a BS degree from Alma College, and an MS (biomechanics) from Michigan State University. She received her medical degree from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Her internship and residency were completed at Botsford General Hospital. Additionally, she completed a fellowship in movement disorders with Dr. Peter LeWitt. She has been named a fellow of the American College of Neuropsychiatrists. She is board-certified in neurology by the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry. She has authored several articles and lectured extensively; she continues to write questions for two national medical boards. Dr. Taylor is a member of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Council (MSAC) of the Alzheimer's Association of Michigan, and is a reviewer for the journal Clinical Neuropharmacology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Surprising Reasons You're in Pain Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideNerve Pain Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Options

Nerve Pain Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Options

What causes neuropathic pain?

There are many reasons that patients may develop neuropathic pain. However, on a cellular level, one explanation is that an increased release of certain neurotransmitters which signal pain, combined with an impaired ability of the nerves to regulate these signals leads to the sensation of pain originating from the affected region. Additionally, in the spinal cord, the area which interprets painful signals is rearranged, with corresponding changes in neurotransmitters and loss of normally-functioning cell bodies; these alterations result in the perception of pain even in the absence of external stimulation. In the brain, the ability to block pain can be lost following an injury such as stroke or trauma. Over time, further cellular damage occurs and the sense of pain persists.

Neuropathic pain is associated with diabetes, chronic alcohol intake, certain cancers, vitamin B deficiency, infections, other nerve-related diseases, toxins, and certain drugs.

What are the signs and symptoms of neuropathic pain?

Unlike other neurological conditions, identification of neuropathic pain is hard. Few, if any, objective signs are present. Examiners have to decipher and interpret a collection of words that patients use to describe their pain. Patients may describe their symptoms as sharp, dull, hot, cold, sensitive, itchy, deep, stinging, burning, or some other descriptor. Additionally, some patients may feel pain with a light touch or pressure.

In an effort to help identify how much pain patients may be experiencing, different scales are often used. Patients are asked to rate their pain based on a visual scale or numeric graph. Many examples of pain scales exist. Often, pictures of faces depicting various degrees of pain can be helpful when patients have a difficult time describing the amount of pain they are experiencing.

Visual Analog Scale (VAS) for Pain
Visual analog scale (VAS) for pain.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/4/2015

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