When you stub your toe, burn your hand, cut your finger, suffer a sports injury, or bang your elbow, a sudden rush of pain overcomes the affected area. This is a normal response by the human body, called nociceptive pain, and is designed to alert you that something is wrong. This is a sign that your nociceptors are working properly, which are receptors that help the body feel pain when under harm. Nociceptive pain is usually caused by irritated nerve roots (radicular), activating pain receptors (somatic), or damage to internal organs (visceral). While nociceptive pain is the type of pain we’ve all grown used to and the one that makes the most sense (when you injure something, you expect it to hurt), there’s another type of pain that doesn’t receive as much attention in the world today and it’s called neuropathic pain.
SO, WHAT IS NEUROPATHIC PAIN?
Neuropathic pain is a chronic pain condition that results in nerve fibers sending the wrong pain signals to pain centers located throughout the body. While nociceptive pain is usually triggered by a specific event – such as stubbing your toe – neuropathic pain doesn’t have a direct origin. Since neuropathic pain is caused by a damaged nervous system (nerve damage), most patients will experience pain in a number of areas throughout the human body. This includes the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nerves (organs, arms, legs, fingers, toes, etc.). It’s estimated that nearly 33% of the American population experience chronic pain and roughly 20% of those people experience neuropathic pain. The condition is currently linked to hundreds of other conditions. If not diagnosed and treated properly, neuropathic pain can and will worsen.
CAUSES OF NEUROPATHIC PAIN
One of the things that make neuropathic pain so difficult to diagnose and treat is that there’s no clear or obvious cause. It might take some time before a doctor can get to the bottom of your condition and even then, it might take some time before you start to see results from treatment. With that said, there are several causes that are commonly reported among neuropathic pain patients and they’re generally categorized into one of our main categories – disease, injury, loss of limb, and infection. Don’t worry, we’re going to take a deeper look at each individual category.
Some of the most common diseases that are commonly linked to neuropathic pain include multiple sclerosis, multiple myeloma, several other types of cancer, alcoholism, trigeminal neuralgia, and diabetes – which is the cause behind nearly 30% of all neuropathic pain.
Injuries are another common cause of neuropathic pain. This includes injuries to your tissue, muscles, joints, back, leg, hip, and any other body part. While the actual injury might heal, the nerve injury might not heal properly and this can result in neuropathic pain even after it heals.
LOSS OF LIMB
Although rare, neuropathic pain can be caused by the amputation of a limb – including arms, legs, fingers, toes, penis, ears, and any other body part that can be amputated. Known as phantom limb syndrome, nerves near the amputation site send the wrong signals to the brain.
Infections are another rare cause of neuropathic pain, but it can happen. Some common infections that can cause neuropathic pain include shingles, syphilis, HIV, and postherpetic neuralgia. Sometimes the neuropathic pain lasts months, other times it’s persistent for years.
NEUROPATHIC PAIN SYMPTOMS, SIGNS & OTHER TRIGGERS
Understanding the many symptoms and early warning signs of neuropathic pain can help you receive the right treatment at the right time. They often say that early detection is the best prevention and this is no different with neuropathic pain. The sooner it’s detected, the better. Let’s take a look at some of the most common symptoms of neuropathic pain:
- Sharp pain, burning pain or stabbing pain
- Tingling or numbness in certain areas of the body
- Feeling pain without a trigger
- Feeling pain in moments when you shouldn’t be feeling pain
- Persistently feeling abnormal or unpleasant
- Having a hard time sleeping or relaxing
- Having a hard time expressing yourself
While the symptoms listed above are common among those experiencing neuropathic pain, it’s important to note that everyone’s experience will be different. Not everyone will experience all the symptoms listed above and some might even experience some symptoms not listed above.
HOW IS NEUROPATHIC PAIN DIAGNOSED AND TREATED?
In order to diagnose nerve pain in a patient, doctors generally perform a physical exam, take note of your personal and family medical history, and observe any symptoms you’re experiencing. The main goal is to try to diagnose the underlying cause of neuropathic pain. Once the underlying cause is detected and diagnosed, the main goal behind the treatment is to treat the underlying cause, provide pain relief, maintain a functional lifestyle, and improve the overall quality of life. Doctors usually treat neuropathic pain with medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, etc. Treatment for chronic neuropathic pain will differ for each patient. There’s no cookie-cutter solution and it largely depends on the underlying cause – which is different for everyone. It often takes some time before patients start to see results from their treatment efforts, but it’s well worth the wait.
HOW CAN COLORADO RECOVERY SOLUTIONS HELP?
At Colorado Recovery Solutions, we offer a number of different therapy options that could help you better manage your neuropathic pain symptoms. While there’s no cure for this disease, there are plenty of ways to control the symptoms and we’re fully dedicated to helping you. For example, we offer Deep TMS treatments that stimulate the deep regions of your brain to improve mood and offer pain management. We also offer ketamine therapy, which is administered through an IV drip. Ketamine is an anesthetic that has calming and therapeutic effects on the body.
If you’d like to learn more about our services and how we can help you better manage your neuropathic pain symptoms, contact our office today at (719) 622-6522. We understand how stressful and frustrating this pain must be, which is why we’re ready and willing to help.