It was a sunny Sunday afternoon when you fell asleep on the couch with an arm under your head. When you woke up, you couldn’t move your arm, and it started to hurt. Slowly, you felt a tingling sensation run up your arms, but a few minutes later, it was all gone. Don’t worry; it’s normal unless you have nerve damage.
When nerves are damaged, simple actions become painful. As to the example mentioned earlier, the nerves of your arm were subjected to prolonged pressure. Because of this, the blood vessels that supplied your arm with blood became compressed. In distress, the nerves in your arm sent signals to your brain, causing an uncomfortable, tingling, and painful sensation. For people suffering from nerve damage, the pain could be even more intense and unrelenting.
If you experience chronic pain because of nerve damage, you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), 20 million people suffer from chronic pain caused by nerve damage. If you’re unsure whether the pain you’re feeling is because of nerve damage, it would be good to know what causes it.
What Causes Nerve Damage?
There’s a high chance of nerve damage if you have diabetes. But it could also be because of Lyme disease, infections, and autoimmune disorders such as Guillain-Barré Syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, Epstein-Barr, diphtheria, hepatitis C, and HIV. Repetitive motion, heavy exposure to toxins, aging, sudden trauma or surgery, and nerve compression can also lead to nerve damage.
Nerve pain caused by nerve damage is referred to as neuropathic pain by doctors. Neuropathic pain is an umbrella term for different kinds of pain caused by injuries to the peripheral nervous system.
The peripheral nervous system is an extensive communication network made up of nerves, sending signals to the central nervous system and then to all body parts. Furthermore, it carries three different types of nerves—sensory, autonomic, and motor nerves.
Sensory nerves carry signals that affect how you feel when you’re touched, cut, or subjected to different temperatures. Autonomic nerves carry signals that tell your organs to perform involuntary actions such as digesting food, breathing, and beating your heart. Motor nerves carry signals that tell your body to perform physical functions such as walking and talking. When any of these nerves are damaged, your body’s ability to complete actions fails.
The good news is that neuropathic pain doesn’t happen abruptly. Its slow progress means you can still have it treated before your condition becomes worse.
In general, neuropathic pain is treated with prescription drugs for anti-seizure, anticonvulsants, and antidepression. Topical treatments for pain relief are sometimes prescribed as well. In some cases, doctors block the nerves on parts of the body that are the source of pain. Affected nerves can be injected with local anesthetics and steroids.
While these medications can be your first line of defense against neuropathic pain, it is always not enough. In fact, according to the Pharmaceutical Journal, these kinds of medications don’t guarantee pain relief. You can use them, but you shouldn’t entirely rely on them. Here are other treatment options available for you.
1. Decompression Surgery
Compressed nerves causing debilitating pain can be treated with decompression surgery. The treatment releases pressure that’s causing nerves to be compressed. However, this treatment is ideal only when there is a small, concentrated area affected. Compressed nerves over a wide area need other treatments.
2. Ketamine Therapy
While anti-depressants are used widely to treat neuropathic pain and the mental issues that go with it, ketamine therapy is a better option. Not only can it provide relief, but it can also help you treat depression and anxiety associated with neuropathic pain.
3. Lifestyle Changes
If you are suffering from neuropathic pain in different parts of your body, you have polyneuropathy. This is common with people who have diabetes and vitamin deficiencies. Lifestyle changes such as improved blood sugar control, healthy eating, and intake of supplements can help.
4. Multi-modal Therapy and Other Therapies
In some cases, a combination of different treatments, or multi-modal therapy, is required. Medications, surgery, physical therapy, and counseling are put together to help patients get pain relief.
However, stimulation therapies are applied if a patient doesn’t respond to multi-modal therapy and other treatments. Brain stimulation, peripheral nerve stimulation, and spinal cord stimulation are some of its examples.
Outlook of People Suffering From Chronic Neuropathic Pain
Your symptoms, the type of damaged nerves, and their location will dictate treatments your doctor will prescribe. You will learn these contributing factors from your doctor and how to lessen their effect, allowing you to manage your pain better. If you know all of these, your doctor may be able to reduce your medications and use other therapies instead. If you receive the right kind of treatment and as long as the affected nerves have not yet died, your quality of life will significantly improve.