Common Types of Chronic Neuropathic Pain

Sciatica and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are Common Types of Nerve Pain

Man suffering from neck pain
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What is Chronic Neuropathic Pain?

One of the most intense types of chronic pain occurs when nerves in the central nervous system become damaged. Nerve, or neuropathic pain, which is usually detected in a person who also has tissue damage, can become debilitating and slowly diminish quality of life.

Often described as sharp, stinging or burning, neuropathic pain is common in diseases, such as diabetes that attack sensory nerves.

Nerve pain is also present in conditions such as amputation or spinal cord injury, in which nerves are damaged or severed. Swelling associated with conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and sciatica can also irritate nerves, causing neuropathic pain.

Nerve pain can be treated with medications that change the way the brain interprets pain, such as antidepressants and anticonvulsants. If swelling is an issue, NSAIDs may also be effective.

What Causes Neuropathic Pain?

Exactly what causes chronic neuropathic pain is not always understood. Some types of neuropathic pain are caused by congenital disorders, or conditions that people are born with. Others may be the result of a disease or disorder that affects the nervous system. Nerve pain may be brought on by trauma, disease or irritation.

Common Types of Neuropathic Pain

While there are countless types of neuropathic pain, some of the common types include:

  • Postherpetic neuralgia is neuropathic pain that is brought on by an outbreak of shingles, and persists after the condition has cleared.
  • Trigeminal neuralgia is characterized by shooting neck and facial pain. The pain is often worse with light touch, and may make activities, like shaving, very painful.
    • Phantom limb pain can occur in some people after a limb is amputated. This pain feels as if it is coming from part of the limb that is no longer there.
    • Diabetic neuropathy causes burning or stabbing pain in the hands and feet of some people who suffer from diabetes.
    • Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by nerve compression in the wrists, and causes pain in the wrist, thumb and fingers.
    • Sciatica is caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve, and often results in shooting pain that radiates down the back of leg.
    • Pudendal neuralgia is a type of pelvic pain caused by compression of the pudendal nerve. It causes burning pain in the pelvis and groin.
    • Central pain syndrome can occur after nervous system damage, such as a stroke. It can also be caused by neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis. The type of pain depends on the extent of nervous system damage.

    Other Types of Neuropathic Pain

    Chronic neuropathic pain can also be caused by other chronic pain disorders. For instance, someone with degenerative disk disease, a form of arthritis, may experience neuropathic back pain if the condition causes damage to the nerves entering or exiting the spine.

    Some other conditions that may cause chronic neuropathic pain include spinal cord injury, post-surgical pain and cancer.


    The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. Neuropathic Pain. Accessed 12/28/09.

    National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Pain: Hope Through Research. Accessed 1/11/10.

    National Pain Foundation. Neuropathic Pain Causes. Accessed 12/28/09.

    American Chronic Pain Association, Neuropathic Pain.

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