Nerve pain — a particular type of pain and it feels different from other kinds of pain. Also called “neuralgia” or “neuropathic pain” which occurs when a certain health condition affects the nerves and carries sensation or signal to the brain.
People who experience this kind of neuropathic pain affects also their behavior, they become more sensitive than usual — to touch, to cold, and can experience pain as a result of their stimuli that would not normally be painful, brushing the skin is the best example to this.
It can worsen at night but also, it can be mild or might be severe than expected.
Countless nerves in the body convey sensations to the brain, including pain. Damaged to the nerves following a disease or injury can be a result of nerve pain. The damage may cause a misfire, mixed pain signals to a certain part of the brain. For people with nerve pain that the messaging system is not working correctly. Your brain receives a pain signal, you will feel the pain, however, there is no certain reason that causes the pain or obvious cause. Diseases such as diabetes or vitamin B12 deficiency are believed to be the diseases that nerve pain usually happens, more so an injury to the brain, spinal cord or a nerve.
People who have neuropathic pains are having a hard time dealing with some important parts of their lives — such as sleep, sex, work, exercise or other recreational activity they usually tend to do. They become angry, frustrated and oftentimes can lead them to anxiety or worse, depression.
There are four (4) types of nerve pain, such as:
- Post-herpetic – affecting the same as the rashes, it can happen after you’ve had herpes zoster (shingles rash – a viral infection that causes a painful rash)
- Trigeminal – jaw or cheek causing pain
- Occipital – pain that occurs at the base of your skull which can be spread to the back of your head
- Pudendal – pain that occurs at the saddle area (between the legs)
Often, the first goal to treat nerve pain is to address the underlying condition that causing your nerve pain or nerve damage which means:
- Blood sugar levels regulation for people who are dealing with diabetes
- Correction of nutritional deficiencies which often addressed and advised by specialists.
- Surgery to address nerve compression or nerve trauma
- Physical therapy
- Medications switch, as prescribed, especially if the drugs are causing nerve damages
Painkillers and a range of prescripted drugs may help whether for long term or short term.
It is also considered that nerve pain can also relieve through non-drug treatments which include physical exercise, acupuncture, relaxation techniques, and breathing exercises.
There are various ways and effective treatment for nerve pain but it depends on the specifics — such as patient’s health, underlying cause, potential side effects, cost, and other risks. However, physicians generally use the same set of medications and treatments for nerve pains whether caused by diabetes or vitamin B12 deficiency or another condition. Listed are the rundown of basic or general options.
There are three (3) main types of painkillers:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Each painkiller works in different ways. Most people are advised to take a painkiller for a certain period of time — for a few days, weeks or months at most, however, some people need to take them for quite a very long time. Painkillers are readily available at the pharmacies; this includes the three (3) types of painkillers listed above. If you buy painkillers that contain weak opioids, this is usually upon the advice and further discussed with your doctors or pharmacist.
Painkillers, which everyone’s first choice for people with especially severe pain or nerve pain. However, for other kinds of nerve pain, doctors generally prescribed anti-inflammatories or pain relievers, or antidepressants and/or anticonvulsants first. Powerful opioid painkillers usually might be the choice for severe pains or nerve pains but it can have serious side effects. Over-the-counter painkillers may not work very well for everyone for moderate to severe nerve pain.
These drugs were originally developed for treating epilepsy — a group of related disorders often characterized as a tendency of seizures recurrency. Anticonvulsants, hence, the synonym is “antiepileptic” are a diverse group of pharmacological agents being used in the treatment of epileptic seizures, neuropathic pain and mood stabilizers prescribed to control seizures, and if necessary, surgery is often the rare choice if medications are ineffective. To boost their effects, they are often used with antidepressants. It’s important to consult with the doctor first before taking anticonvulsants to ensure that they won’t conflict with other medications and/or conditions. They might not work well with all types of nerve pain but it can help relieve or reduce the pain.
Some of the approved anticonvulsant drugs have been investigated to relieve pain and psychiatric disorders and some of these indications are approved. The use of anticonvulsants should be personalized to increase efficiency and to ensure safety by matching the right drug to the right patient.
Antidepressants are medications that can help relieve symptoms of depression, social anxiety disorders, anxiety disorders, seasonal affective disorder, and dysthymia (persistent mild depression) as well as other conditions. It was first developed in the 1950s to correct chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain — which is believed to be responsible for mood and behavior changes and their use has become progressively more common in the last 20 years.
Certain types of antidepressants can help with nerve pains. They are usually used along with the anticonvulsants to boost its effectivity for it may have bigger benefits than using them alone. Antidepressants may help with diabetic nerve pain, they might not be helpful to other types of nerve pain.
Usually, it takes several weeks to notice the effects of antidepressants on a person. They started believing that this medication is not working which is why some other people stop taking this medication.
4. Electrical Stimulation
Electrical stimulation or neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) is a muscle contraction technique with the use of electrical impulses. A number of treatments are using electrical impulses to block the pain messages or the mixed signals sent by the damaged nerves. Electrodes are controlled by a unit are to be placed on the skin over a specific area. Including transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). Electrical current is sent from the unit to the electrodes and delivered into the muscle which will cause muscle contraction. They are noninvasive and usually are painless. Complex electrical stimulation are those that require surgery depending on the condition and/or stimulation needed by the patient.
There are various forms of electrical stimulation or so-called “electrotherapy” listed below that are being used to serve its many purposes in the scale of decreasing pain and inflammation to improving function and strength.
- NMES (Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation)
- EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation)
- FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation)
- TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)
- ETS (EMG Triggered Stimulation)
- RETS (Reciprocal EMG Triggered Stimulation)
5. Topical Treatments
The word topical derives from the Greek word τοπικός topikos, which means “of a place”. Topical treatments are those some over-the-counter and prescription topical treatments — such as creams, lotions, gels, ointments, and skin patches — of which can help ease, relieve or reduce the nerve pain that the person actually feeling. In those isolated or specific areas of the skin, they can have their share of working its best.
It is a medication that is applied to a particular place on or in the body. Many of the topical treatments are epicutaneous — which means they are and advised to be applied directly to the skin. It may come in different forms such as inhalational (asthma medications), or eye drops (applied to conjunctiva); or ear drops (placed in the ear); or some applied to the surface of a tooth or applied to the surface of tissues other than the skin.
6. Complementary Treatments
Complementary treatments or medicine are a group of diagnostic and therapeutic disciplines that are being used together with conventional medicine. An example of a complementary therapy is using acupuncture in addition to the usual and basic care to help lessen a patient’s discomfort after performing the surgery.
Complementary medicine is different from alternative medicine. Whereas, complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine, while, alternative medicine are used in place of conventional medicine. Alternative therapy is the usual medication that includes a special diet to treat cancer instead of chemotherapy, radiation, undergoing surgery which the top recommendation by a physician.
If you are interested in a special diet or dietary supplements for nerve pain, the best way is to talk to your doctor first and listen to his prescription. For some people, dietary supplements may be good, however, there are still some people who may not react to the medications as it should and may cause them discomfort or worst, may risk the patient’s health especially if the effect may cause further damage to the nerves.
7. Other Techniques
In certain cases, doctors might recommend injections of anesthetic to help relieve and reduce the patient’s nerve pain experience, or, surgery, which is a very rare recommendation made to address or tackle certain nerve pain. Often called non-medicine strategies are listed as follows:
- Education and counseling
Neuropathic pain is often difficult to treat and a number of therapies may need to be explored to relieve or reduce the pain and improve the person’s daily function. It is very important that the patient is well educated and aware of his or her condition. By educating the patient and also with a series of counseling, the patient, may at least find a way in self-help medication.
- Psychological treatments
Usually are given by psychologists, these psychological treatments to help the patient to be in control of his or her pain and reduce the stress that the nerve pain is causing.
8. Lifestyle Changes
Lifestyle changes may not always and will never cure the nerve pain, but it is sure to have its own share of better and improved changes. Making some changes beginning with your habits and everyday routine could help you better and may ease some of your discomforts.
Eating a healthy and monitored diet and exercising a bit more than you used to do before may give you a refreshing feeling and the possibility of triggering the nerve pain may result in a drastic change from sudden pain to a lasting relaxation and comfortability.
For smokers, quitting smoking is one of the biggest milestones that anyone can have as it opens the door to a healthy and fuller life. Making time to practice relaxation — such as breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, meditation could help the patient calm his or her nerves and may improve nerve signals to the brain.
9. Implantable Device
Implantable devices are the invasive procedure required by a surgeon to implant a device in a patient’s body. Some devices are used to put in the brain, and some are used to put in the spine. Once the device has been settled in the patient’s body, the device will send electrical impulses into the brain, spinal cord or nerves. The impulses may stop the irregular nerve signal and control symptoms which can help to improve the quality of life of the patient.
These devices are typically used only in individuals who have not responded well to other treatment options. Oftentimes, implantable devices are the last choice for all various options to help treat the patient. Implantable devices’ one of the best examples is the spinal cord stimulator — a device that sends low levels of electricity sent directly into the spinal cord to relieve or reduce nerve pain.
Biofeedback therapy is a technique that trains people to improve their health by monitoring and controlling certain bodily processes which usually happen involuntarily — such as heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, skin temperature, and many more.
The body’s stress-related processes are monitored, with the information provided to the individual. Techniques to control the patient’s stress and reduce or relieve the perception of pain are hereby developed. With the help of a biofeedback therapist, they will describe a situation and carefully guide the patient through relaxation and sometimes meditation techniques. The monitor lets you see how you respond — through your heart rate and blood pressure changes — in response to being stressed or remaining relaxed. At the beginning of your progress, the monitor is the device that will help you see your progress but eventually, you be able to achieve success without the use of any device.