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What is nerve pain?

Ordinary pain (or nociceptive pain) is caused by injury or damage to a body part. Ordinary pain serves a protective function – it signals a person to withdraw from a damaging situation, protect the damaged part while it heals, and avoid similar experiences in the future. Most ordinary pain resolves promptly once the injured or damaged body part has healed.

Sometimes, however, pain continues long after the original injury or damage has healed – this is known as chronic pain. Nerve pain (or neuropathic pain) is a type of chronic pain that results from damage to either the nerves that normally sense pain or parts of the nervous system that transmit pain signals, such as the spinal cord or the brain. Nerve pain has no protective function – it is intense and unpleasant, and a great source of suffering for those who have it.

Types of nerve pain

Common types of nerve pain include:

  • Diabetic nerve pain. An estimated 200 million people in Asia Pacific suffer from diabetes, and around 60% to 70% of them suffer from some type of nerve damage. In some of these people, the nerve damage causes pain – about 1 in 4 diabetics suffer from diabetic nerve pain

  • Nerve pain after shingles. Herpes zoster, or shingles, is a painful skin rash with blisters in a limited area on one side of the body. Up to 20% of patients with shingles subsequently develop nerve pain – pain that continues for 3 or more months after the shingles rash heals.

  • Back pain with nerve pain. Up to 10% of adults may suffer from chronic low back pain, and a nerve pain component is present in 20% to 35% of these cases.

  • Nerve pain after trauma. Victims of road accidents often suffer from traumatic injuries to their upper and lower limbs, including nerve damage. Up to 50% of patients with traumatic nerve injury develop nerve pain.

Some other types of nerve pain are:

  • Trigeminal neuralgia. Severe, spontaneous, shooting pain in the face and jaw caused by damage to or compression of the trigeminal nerve

  • Central post-stroke pain. A stroke can damage areas of the brain that interpret pain signals, resulting in perception of pain even without injury

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. Excessive, repetitive wrist motion can lead to compression of the median nerve at the wrist, resulting in acute pain in the hand and wrist

  • Phantom limb pain. A sensation of pain perceived as coming from a limb that has already been amputated

  • Cancer nerve pain. Nerve pain in patients with cancer may be due to either the tumor or the treatment they are receiving (ie, chemotherapy)

Causes of nerve pain

Nerve pain may result from damage to the nerves that normally sense pain and transmit pain signals (peripheral nervous system), or from damage to parts of the nervous system that transmit pain signals and interpret them (the spinal cord and the brain, or the central nervous system). Examples of conditions that can cause nerve damage include:

  • Infections
  • Inflammation
  • Diabetes
  • Slipped disc
  • Stroke
  • Malignant tumors
  • Excessive, repetitive use of joints
  • Surgery
Consequences of nerve pain

Nerve pain can have a significant negative effect on a sufferer's daily routine and on his/her general quality of life. Many people with nerve pain find it difficult to sleep, hard to concentrate, and often feel tired and listless. Chronic pain can make it impossible to work or to walk very far. Some people cannot even get dressed because the feel of their clothes next to the skin produces unbearable pain. Nerve pain can also lead to financial difficulties – patients often spend a great deal of money and time trying to find relief from their pain. Patients with chronic and unrelenting pain can also develop symptoms of severe anxiety and depression.

The impact of nerve pain on family and friends is probably greatly underestimated. Family members are put under great pressure by the physical and social needs of the person they are caring for. They can also feel stressed and frustrated by their inability to help their loved one or relieve the pain.



Nerve Pain Videos

Have a look at our nerve pain videos and see if your pain feels like this.

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Back Pain

Around 40-50% of the population suffers from back pain, some or all of the time.

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Family & Friends

Taking care of a loved one with nerve pain is very difficult.

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