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Chronic pain is one of the most common issues faced by people today, the effects these health conditions can have on your quality of life are innumerable. Neuropathic pain is a type of chronic pain caused by damaged nerves that send incorrect signals through the spinal cord to the brain. It can be excruciating and significantly limit your ability to do the activities you love, as well as daily tasks.

But what is chronic neuropathic pain? How do you know your symptoms are the result of nerve pain? And most importantly, how do you treat it?

AtGreater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates (GPOA), our team of specialists are dedicated to providing the highest standard of care for those suffering from chronic pain of any kind. Using minimally-invasive, leading-edge techniques, we treat neuropathic pain with an individualized approach tailored to your recovery needs and goals.

Here's some important information on neuropathic pain and its treatment options:

What is Neuropathic Pain?

Neuropathic pain occurs when your nervous system sends pain signals to the brain, even though there isn’t an obvious injury or illness. Your brain and spinal cord are responsible for sending signals to the rest of your body and when these signals get disrupted, you can experience pain.

There are some important differences between neuropathic pain and non-neuropathic pain. Non-neuropathic pain is caused by an injury or illness, such as a broken bone or arthritis. Neuropathic pain, on the other hand, is caused by damaged nerves and can be harder to diagnose and treat.

Symptoms of Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain symptoms are characterized by a variety of chronic symptoms that can range from mild to severe. These symptoms include:

  1. Shooting pain: A sudden, sharp, and intense pain that may feel like an electric shock.
  2. Electric shock-like pain: A sensation similar to being jolted by an electrical current.
  3. A burning sensation: A persistent feeling of heat or burning in the affected area.
  4. Pain, tingling, or numbness: Discomfort accompanied by sensations of pins and needles or loss of sensation.
  5. Complex regional pain syndrome: A condition characterized by chronic pain that typically affects an arm or leg, often following an injury or trauma.
  6. Burning pain: A type of pain characterized by a persistent burning sensation.

These symptoms can significantly impact an individual's quality of life, and proper management and treatment are crucial for those experiencing neuropathic pain.

Examples of Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain can be caused by a variety of conditions, each with its own specific mechanism that leads to nerve damage or dysfunction. Understanding these causes can help in identifying and treating the source of the pain.

In this section, we will explore some common examples of conditions that could lead to neuropathic pain.

  • Peripheral Neuropathy

    The peripheral nervous system plays a crucial role in connecting the nerves throughout your body to the brain and spinal cord. When these peripheral nerves are damaged, it can lead to a condition called peripheral neuropathy, often characterized by pain or numbness in the hands and feet.

    This condition is particularly common in individuals with diabetes, known as diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy, a type of peripheral neuropathy, can cause tingling, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet. If left untreated, painful diabetic neuropathy symptoms can also increase the risk of amputation.

  • Phantom Limb Pain

    Phantom limb syndrome is a type of neuropathic pain that affects amputees. Phantom pain occurs when the brain continues to send signals to a limb that is no longer present. As a result, amputees can experience sensations in their missing limb, such as itching, burning, or spontaneous pain.

  • Spinal Cord Injury

    A spinal cord injury (SCI) is a major cause of neuropathic pain. Injuries to the spine can affect normal communication between the brain and body, causing numbness, tingling, or shooting pains in the arms and legs.

  • Nerve Injury

    Damage to the nerves in your arm or leg can also cause neuropathic pain. This type of nerve damage is often referred to as post-traumatic neuropathy, and it can cause burning sensations and radiating pains that travel from the affected nerves.

  • Nerve Compression

    Compression or pressure on the nerves can cause neuropathic pain. Nerve compression can happen anywhere in the body due to trauma, surgical procedures, or repetitive motion. One of the most common types of nerve compression is carpal tunnel syndrome, which occurs when the median nerve in the wrist is pinched.

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the joints, and can cause neuropathic pain. This type of nerve pain often occurs in the hands and feet and can be accompanied by symptoms such as numbness or tingling.

  • Multiple Sclerosis

    Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system. MS can cause neuropathic pain in the arms, legs, and trunk. Symptoms of MS-related nerve pain include burning sensations and sharp, shooting pains.

  • Neurological Disorders

    Neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy can also cause neuropathic pain. In these cases, the nerve pain is often related to the disorder itself, or as a side effect of certain medications used to treat the condition.

Treating Neuropathic Pain

At Greater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates, our team of specialists use a multi-modal approach to treat neuropathic pain. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, we may recommend a combination of treatments for neuropathic pain, such as:

  • Pain Medication: We may prescribe pain medications to provide pain relief in the short term.
  • Nerve Blocks: We may suggest nerve blocks, which are injections of anesthetic and steroid delivered directly to the affected nerves. This treatment can reduce inflammation and provide long-term relief from neuropathic pain.
  • Physical Therapy: We may recommend physical therapy exercises to strengthen the muscles around the affected nerve. This can help reduce pain and improve mobility.
  • Neuromodulation: Neuromodulation is a form of treatment that involves electrical stimulation or other treatments to change how the nerves respond to pain signals.
  • Surgery: In some cases, nerve surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure on the affected nerves.

    While pain management and treating symptoms are important, it's even more vital to determine the underlying disease that is causing the pain. Once that has been diagnosed, we can begin working on long-term solutions that relieve symptoms in a lasting way.

Visit the Top Back Pain Doctor in Pittsburgh

Neuropathic symptoms can be frustrating and debilitating, but it doesn't have to control your life. Treatments are available to help you manage your pain, and the specialists at Greater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates can help you find the right solution for you.

At Greater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates, we are committed to providing the highest quality of care for those suffering from neuropathic pain. We understand that pain management can be difficult for this type of chronic pain, and our team is here to provide you with tools and resources to help you manage your condition.

If you are suffering from neuropathic pain and would like to learn more about our treatments,schedule your appointment with us today. We look forward to helping you find relief!