The majority of nerve pain is caused by damage to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) or nerves that connect the central nervous system to the muscles and other parts of the body.
Nerve pain comes and goes, but it is usually chronic pain.
What is nerve pain?
Nerve pain is a shooting or burning pain, which is caused by any injury or malfunction of the nerves or any underlying medical conditions that damage the nerves. The effect is felt at the site of nerve damage and along the nerve's path.
Diabetes causes 30 to 40 percent of neuropathic pains.
What causes nerve pain?
There are various causes of nerve pain or neuropathic pain or neuralgia.
The following are the most common causes of nerve pain:
- Lack of blood supply to the nerves
- Vitamin B12 or vitamin B1 (Thiamine) deficiencies
- Facial nerve problems
- HIV infection
- Alcohol consumption
- Central nervous system conditions such as stroke, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis
- Complex regional pain syndrome
- Nerve or spinal cord compression that occurs due to arthritis of the spine
- Spine surgery
- Any damage to the nerves after the surgery
- Sciatica (a condition in which pressure on nerves of the lower back causes pain down the legs, where the pain is associated with numbness and weakness in the legs)
What are the signs and symptoms of nerve pain?
Nerve pain may be due to damage to the nerve. This damaged nerve sends an improper signal, making it difficult to perform daily activities. Mainly, nerve pain is caused in the hands and legs.
A few signs and symptoms show that you have nerve pain include:
- Sharp and throbbing pain
- Loss of balance
- Tingling and numbness in the hands and legs
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Dropping things from hands
- Heaviness in the hands and legs
- A sudden drop in blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty digesting
- Profuse sweating
- Difficulty sleeping that causes emotional stress
How is nerve pain diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will perform a physical examination, ask for symptoms, and may recommend the following tests:
- Blood tests
- Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain and spine
How to treat nerve pain
The best way to treat nerve pain is to treat the underlying condition.
Treatment for nerve pain may include:
Use of antiepileptics
The use of antiepileptic drugs such as gabapentin and pregabalin may reduce and ease nerve pain. The drug carbamazepine is usually used to treat a condition called trigeminal neuralgia. Common side effects of antiepileptic drugs include drowsiness, dizziness, and headaches.
Antidepressants such as amitriptyline and duloxetine are used for treating depression. These drugs also work effectively in managing nerve pain. Side effects of the drug include dry mouth and drowsiness.
Simple painkillers such as aspirin, paracetamol, and a few other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are used to treat nerve pain. Opioids are sometimes used to treat severe pain, but they have many side effects, especially when used long-term and can be addictive. Topical application of lidocaine or capsaicin in the form of patches or creams may give some temporary relief from the pain.
If none of the above methods work, spinal cord stimulation, peripheral nerve stimulation, and/or brain stimulation can be used to treat the pain.
Home remedies to treat nerve pain
Nerve pain may cause difficulty performing even simple tasks, and a few lifestyle choices may help you cope with the condition and help you feel better.
- Regular exercises may help expand blood vessels and nourish damaged nerves. Always start with minimal exercise and gradually start increasing.
- If you have nerve pain in your foot, wear comfortable shoes to alleviate the symptoms. For any nerve pain in the foot, use comfortable shoes that may ease the symptoms.
- Proper sleep will help lower stress and relieve stress-related chronic nerve pain.
- Limit the caffeine intake.
- Physical therapy.
- Massage therapy.
- Relaxation therapy.
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