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Chronic Neuropathic Pain

Causes, Treatments and Coping Strategies for Chronic Nerve Pain

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Updated February 28, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Chronic neuropathic pain affects millions of people worldwide. It can be a frustrating condition, as it is often more difficult to diagnose and treat than other chronic pain conditions.

What Causes Chronic Neuropathic Pain?

Chronic neuropathic pain occurs when certain nerves in the body are not functioning as they should. This may be due to nerve damage, diseases that attack the nervous system, swelling or nerve compression. In some cases, nerves form tiny bundles called neuromas, which can also cause chronic neuropathic pain.

Not all types of chronic neuropathic pain can be traced to a single cause, however: as many as 30 percent of cases may be a mystery.

Common Types of Chronic Neuropathic Pain

There are many types of neuropathic pain. Some of the common types include:

Symptoms of Chronic Neuropathic Pain

Nerve pain is a very distinct type of pain, and is often described as sharp, burning or stabbing. While it may be present in and around the affected area, nerve pain also has the ability to travel along the nerve to other areas in the body. This is called referred pain.

Other symptoms that may accompany nerve pain include tingling and numbness, weakness, skin changes and depression.

Treating Chronic Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain is often treated with adjuvant analgesics, such as antidepressants and anticonvulsants. However, other medications may also be used to treat chronic nerve pain. These include NSAIDs, opioids and corticosteroids.

Other treatments may be used for chronic nerve pain as well, such as nerve blocks or physical therapy.

Coping With Chronic Neuropathic Pain

Coping with chronic neuropathic pain is easier said than done. Sometimes, medication and treatments alone are not enough to completely manage nerve pain. However, you can still increase your quality of life. Here are a few ideas for coping with chronic neuropathic pain.

Sources:

The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. Neuropathic Pain. Accessed 12/28/09. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec16/ch209/ch209c.html

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet. Accessed 12/28/09. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/peripheralneuropathy/detail_peripheralneuropathy.htm

National Pain Foundation. Neuropathic Pain Causes. Accessed 12/28/09. http://www.nationalpainfoundation.org/articles/352/causes

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