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What Does Nerve Pain Feel Like?

Neuropathic Pain and its Unique Symptoms


Updated July 16, 2014

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

Woman rubbing aching back
Tom Merton/OJO Images/Getty Images
Neuropathic pain, also called nerve pain, is one of the many classes of chronic pain. Nerve pain can be caused by nerve damage, irritation or destruction.

How Nerve Pain Feels

Most people describe their chronic nerve pain with a similar set of words. Regardless of the cause, nerve pain can feel like any of the following:
  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • Shooting
  • Sharp
  • Stabbing
  • Prickling

Nerve pain may vary in intensity. For some, it can feel like mildly bothersome pins and needles. For others, the pain may be severe and nearly unbearable. Nerve pain may be localized (felt at or near the area of nerve damage) or referred (felt somewhere else in the body).

Nerve Pain Terminology

Because nerve pain is unique, it has some medical buzzwords associated with it. Nerve pain sensations may be described with these buzzwords, which include:

  • Allodynia: When a person experiences pain after a stimulus that shouldn’t cause pain under ordinary circumstances, it is called allodynia.
  • Hyperalgesia: If a person has hyperalgesia, mildly painful stimuli may be felt with greater intensity.
  • Dysesthesia: Dysesthesia describes some sort of impairment in sensation. It can describe pain that is felt when there is no stimulus present at all, also called spontaneous pain.

Other Symptoms Associated With Nerve Pain

Like other types of chronic pain, neuropathic conditions often cause other symptoms in addition to pain. If you have any of the following in addition to the pain described above, you may have nerve damage:

  • Partial or complete loss of feeling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Partial or complete paralysis
  • Changes in skin appearance and texture
  • Muscle disuse atrophy
  • Depression and/or anxiety

More Nerve Pain Information


National Pain Foundation. Neuropathic Pain: Symptoms. Accessed 2/2/10. http://www.nationalpainfoundation.org/articles/353/symptoms?PHPSESSID=9c14904e64a8ad966628202be1ce5892

The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. Neuropathic Pain. Accessed 2/2/10. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec16/ch209/ch209c.html#sec16-ch209-ch209c-278

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