How Does Nerve Pain Differ from Other Kinds of Pain?

No one likes pain, but it serves an important purpose — to prevent injury. However, when it comes to nerve pain, this typically isn't the case.

 Here at Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center, located in Phoenix and Sun City West, Arizona, Drs. Abhishiek Sharma and Erik Curtis and our highly trained team provide a wide range of neurological services. Whether you suffer from lower back pain, nerve pain, or another condition, we aim to serve as your health partner and encourage you to learn as much as you can about your issue and treatment options.

Today, we’re taking a look at nerve pain — how it differs from other types of pain, and what you can do about it. 

Nerve pain

Typically, pain is caused by damage to the body's bones, soft tissues, or organs. It can be acute, like from a sports injury, or chronic, such as from arthritis or headaches where the affected area aches, stabs, or throbs when you move.

Nerve pain is different, however. Here’s how it works: Your nerves carry signals from your body that relay a number of sensations to the brain, including pain. But when the nerves become damaged due to injury or disease, the messaging system can get confused. When that happens, the brain receives the “pain” signal, making you feel pain — but without any obvious reason.

Symptoms and causes

If you have nerve pain, you may experience prickly or tingling sensations, numbness, and/or a loss of reflexes. Your body can also become so hypersensitive that something as lightweight as a sheet might cause pain when you’re lying in bed.

A variety of orthopedic conditions can cause nerve pain, such as a herniated disc, carpal tunnel syndrome, or other condition where the nerve is being pinched by bone or surrounding tissue. Diabetes and HIV can also cause nerve pain. Cancer or other tumors can press on the nerves and cause issues, while some chemotherapy treatments can actually harm the nerves. One especially severe type of nerve pain is postherpetic neuralgia, which comes on after a bout of shingles. An accident or injury can also damage the nerves. Additional causes include repetitive stress, hormone imbalances, Lyme disease, alcoholism, and more. Some people who develop nerve pain do not find the cause.

Diagnosis and treatment

Anyone experiencing nerve pain should see a doctor for a full exam, as getting the right diagnosis is key. An exam will involve a complete medical history, assessment, and often, diagnostic testing. If nerve pain is the result of an underlying health problem, then getting treated is crucial.

Your care will be customized to meet your particular needs, including your overall health, cause of the nerve pain, location, severity, and more. Treatment options include everything from topical treatments like creams, gels, and patches, to medications such as anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and/or painkillers. Electrical stimulation, injections, complementary treatments, and lifestyle changes may help as well.

If you're tired of living with nerve pain, call one of our offices or click our “Request Appt” button to make an appointment today.

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