Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain is a pain that is caused by problems with the signals that travel from the nerves to the brain. Physical therapy is an effective method of treatment that can help reduce symptoms related to neuropathic pain.

What is neuropathic pain?

Pain can either be nociceptive pain or neuropathic pain. Nociceptive pain is a result of actual or potential damage to the tissues or nerves. Nociceptive pain is when pain messages are sent from the nerves to the brain in response to damage such as a cut, burn or an injury.
Neuropathic pain is a complex, long term pain that is caused by problems with one or more nerves. Neuropathic pain differs from normal pain experienced (nociceptive) in that there is often no tissue damage. With neuropathic pain, the nerve fibers themselves can be damaged, injured or dysfunction. Nerve dysfunction results in pain messages being wrongly sent from the nerves to the brain. Neuropathic pain is characterized by a burning, stabbing or shooting pain in the affected area.
The Stroke & Diabetes Center team uses a variety of treatment methods and activities that will help minimize symptoms, increase energy levels and improve general wellbeing which has been affected by neuropathic pain.

What causes neuropathic pain?
There are a number of conditions that affect the nerves and therefore will result in neuropathic pain. These conditions include;

  • Neuralgia (trigeminal or post herpetic)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Motor neuron disease
  • Diabetes
  • Amputation (phantom limb pain)
  • Chemotherapy
  • Alcoholism
  • Infection (HIV / shingles etc.)
  • Trauma or surgery
What are the symptoms of neuropathic pain?

Neuropathic pain is characterized by a number of presenting symptoms around the affected area including;

  • Shooting or stabbing pain
  • Tingling (pins and needles)
  • Numbness
  • Dull aching pain
  • Burning pain
  • Sensitivity or tenderness
  • Referred pain to other areas.

There is no pattern to when neuropathic episodes may occur. The pain may vary in severity and can be continuous or it may come and go. In some cases, neuropathic pain is extremely debilitating and may result in reduced mobility, decreased fitness levels and a worsened quality of life. There are a variety of current treatment options for relieving the symptoms related to neuropathic pain such as medication, relaxation techniques and nerve stimulation. Physical therapy is a valuable approach that aims to help reduce problems caused by neuropathic pain.