An Overview of the Common Types of Chronic Neuropathic Pain

Sciatica and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are Common Types of Nerve Pain

Painful wrist in a man
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Neuropathic pain or nerve pain is one of the most intense types of chronic pain. It is pain caused by damaged nerves or nerves that are not functioning as usual. It is often described as sharp, stinging or burning. It can become debilitating and slowly diminish your quality of life. Neuropathic pain includes pain caused by both central nerves (those in the brain and spinal cord) and peripheral nerves (those that extend out into the body).

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.

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.

Unfortunately, some types of neuropathic pain have an unknown origin, or a cause that is not completely understood.

In fact, up to 30 percent of chronic neuropathic pain cases fall into this category. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (CRPS) is an example. Though the cause may not be fully known, the pain is very real..

Common Types of Neuropathic Pain

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

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: Caused by nerve compression in the wrists and causes pain in the wrist,, thumb and fingers.
  • 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.
  • Degenerative disk disease: In this form of arthritis, you may experience neuropathic back pain if the condition causes damage to the nerves entering or exiting the spine.
  • Diabetic neuropathy causes burning or stabbing pain in the hands and feet of some people who suffer from diabetes.
  • 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.
  • Postherpetic neuralgia (shingles): This neuropathic pain is brought on by an outbreak of shingles and persists after the condition has cleared.
  • Pudendal neuralgia is a type of pelvic pain caused by compression of the pudendal nerve. It causes burning pain in the pelvis and groin.
  • Sciatica: Caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve and often results in shooting pain that radiates down the back of the leg.
  • Trigeminal neuralgia is characterized by shooting neck and facial pain. The pain is often worse with touch and may make activities, like shaving, very painful.

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