Why Do I Have Neuropathic Pain?
Neuropathic pain is often described as a shooting or burning pain. Which it can go away on its own but is often chronic. Sometimes it is unrelenting and severe, and sometimes it comes and goes. It often is the result of nerve damage or a malfunctioning nervous system. The impact of nerve damage is a change in nerve function both at the site of the injury and areas arounbd it.
Example of neuropathic pain:
- Phantom limb syndrome: This rare condition occurs when an arm or a leg has been removed because of illness or injury, but the brain still gets pain messages from the nerves that originally carried impulses from the missing limb. These nerves now misfire and can cause pain.
Neuropathy will be accompanied by signs such as:
- shooting, burning, or stabbing pain
- tingling and numbness, or a “pins and needles” feeling
- spontaneous pain, or pain that occurs without a trigger
- evoked pain, or pain that’s caused by events that are typically not painful, such as rubbing against something, being in cold temperatures, or brushing your hair
- a chronic sensation of feeling unpleasant or abnormal
- difficulty sleeping or resting
- emotional problems as a result of chronic pain, loss of sleep, and difficulty expressing how you’re feeling
How Can Neuropathy Be Diagnosed?
To diagnose neuropathic pain, a doctor will conduct an interview and a physical exam on a patient, he or she may ask questions about how you would describe your pain, when the pain occurs, or whether anything specific triggers the pain. The doctor will also ask about your risk factors for neuropathic pain. Neuropathy has many potential causes. Besides a physical exam, which may include blood tests, diagnosis usually requires:
- A full medical history. Your doctor will review your medical history, including your symptoms, your lifestyle, exposure to toxins, drinking habits and a family history of nervous system (neurological) diseases.
- Neurological examination. Your doctor might check your tendon reflexes, your muscle strength and tone, your ability to feel certain sensations, and your posture and coordination.
Your doctor may order tests, including:
- Blood tests. These can detect vitamin deficiencies, diabetes, abnormal immune function and other indications of conditions that can cause peripheral neuropathy.
- Imaging tests. CT or MRI scans can look for herniated disks, tumors or other abnormalities.
- Nerve function tests. Electromyography records electrical activity in your muscles to detect nerve damage. A probe sends electrical signals to a nerve, and an electrode placed along the nerve’s pathway records the nerve’s response to the signals (nerve conduction studies).
- Other nerve function tests. These might include an autonomic reflex screen that records how the autonomic nerve fibers work, a sweat test, and sensory tests that record how you feel touch, vibration, cooling and heat.
- Nerve biopsy. This involves removing a small portion of a nerve, usually a sensory nerve, to look for abnormalities.
- Skin biopsy. Your doctor removes a small portion of skin to look for a reduction in nerve endings
How Can I Manage My Pain?
If your doctor is able to identify an underlying cause for the neuropathic pain, treating it may reduce and even eliminate the pain. For example, diabetes is a common cause of neuropathic pain. Proper diabetes care, which includes a healthy diet and regular exercise, may eliminate or reduce neuropathic pain. Taking care of diabetes symptoms can also prevent worsening pain and numbness.
Neuropathic pain isn’t one-size-fits-all, and a multipronged approach can be an effective way to manage the condition. A combination of medications, physical therapy, psychological treatment, and even surgery or implants may be used to bring about the best results.
ways to manage neuropathy can be one of many:
- Exercise. Regular exercise, such as walking three times a week, can reduce neuropathy pain, improve muscle strength and help control blood sugar levels. Gentle routines such as yoga and tai chi might also help.
- Quit smoking. Cigarette smoking can affect circulation, increasing the risk of foot problems and other neuropathy complications.
- Eat healthy meals. Good nutrition is especially important to ensure that you get essential vitamins and minerals. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein in your diet.
- Avoid excessive alcohol. Alcohol can worsen peripheral neuropathy.
- Monitor your blood glucose levels. If you have diabetes, this will help keep your blood glucose under control and might help improve your neuropathy.
Some people with peripheral neuropathy try complementary treatments for relief. Although researchers haven’t studied these techniques as thoroughly as they have most medications, the following therapies have shown some promise:
- Acupuncture. Inserting thin needles into various points on your body might reduce peripheral neuropathy symptoms. You might need multiple sessions before you notice improvement. Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by a certified practitioner using sterile needles.
- Alpha-lipoic acid. This has been used as a treatment for peripheral neuropathy in Europe for years. Discuss using alpha-lipoic acid with your doctor because it can affect blood sugar levels. Other side effects can include stomach upset and skin rash.
- Herbs. Certain herbs, such as evening primrose oil, might help reduce neuropathy pain in people with diabetes. Some herbs interact with medications, so discuss herbs you’re considering with your doctor.
- Amino acids. Amino acids, such as acetyl-L-carnitine, might benefit people who have undergone chemotherapy and people with diabetes. Side effects might include nausea and vomiting.
How Can I Prevent Neuropathic Pain?
The best way to prevent neuropathic pain is to avoid development of neuropathy. Monitoring and modifying lifestyle choices, including limiting the use of tobacco and alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight to decrease the risk of diabetes, or stroke. Also using good ergonomic form at work or when practicing hobbies to decrease the risk of repetitive stress injury are ways to decrease the risk of developing neuropathy and possible neuropathic pain.
Ways to prevent neuropathy can be one of many such as:
- Report symptoms of diabetic neuropathy
- If you have problems, get treatment right away
- Take good care of your feet
- Protect your feet
- Get special shoes if needed
- Be careful with exercising