Learn more about nerve pain and neuralgia, as well as symptoms and treatment options
Nerve pain sometimes called neuralgia or neuropathic pain can occur when a certain health condition affects or damages the nerves that carry sensation to the brain and can feel very different to other kinds of pain. There are many types of nerve pain, including post-herpetic (which can occur after you’ve had shingles), trigeminal (which causes pain in the cheek or jaw), occipital (which causes pain at the base of your skull), and pudendal (which can cause pain in the area between your legs, sometimes referred to as the ‘saddle area’). In some cases, nerve pain can also be caused by problems affecting your central nervous system, as well as the nerves which run from your brain and spinal cord to your muscles and organs and could be due to a medical condition or injury.
What are the symptoms of nerve pain?
Some of the symptoms of nerve pain include:
- Localised pain.
- Shooting, stabbing or a burning sensation.
- Sudden or sharp ‘electric shock-like feeling.
- Heightened sensitivity to touch or cold.
- Disturbed sleep.
- Impaired ability to exercise or perform work.
- Mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
What are examples of traditional treatments for nerve pain?
Some traditional treatments for nerve pain include:
- Pain relieving medications: including aspirin, and paracetamol.
- Treatment for any underlying conditions: such as surgery removing bone pressing against a nerve.
- Anticonvulsant medications: These are used to treat pain and muscle spasms associated with trigeminal neuralgia.
- Antidepressants: which can be used in some cases to treat pain.
- Surgery: can be used in some cases to block pain messages and desensitise the nerve.
- Physical therapy: including physiotherapy and osteopathy.
- Alternative therapies: include meditation, hypnosis, and acupuncture.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): This can be used to block the transmission of pain sensations to your brain.
- Psychological treatments: to reduce distress and help you feel in control of your pain.
Medicinal cannabis and nerve pain
If you’ve exhausted other treatment options and haven’t experienced any relief or improvement, it might be worth chatting to your doctor to see whether medicinal cannabis could be suitable for you.
We spoke to Dr James Stewart, one of Australia’s leading minds in cannabis medicine who provided a medical view about nerve pain and traditional treatments.
Dr Stewart is a true believer in focusing on overall health and always promotes a healthy lifestyle as the key. Click below to learn more about nerve pain and traditional and alternative treatments you may wish to discuss with a Doctor.
Nerve Pain FAQs
Often known as neuralgia, nerve pain is felt in the nerve pathways around the body. A symptom of injury or another health complication, nerve pain can in many cases not have a clear cause. Most people will experience this kind of pain at some point in their life but older people can be a lot more susceptible to nerve pain issues. To determine what kind of nerve pain relief is best, you need to understand what is causing the neuralgia to occur.
Some of the most common causes of nerve pain in an individual can include:
● Disc disease or a degenerative joint problem in the spinal cord
● Nerve compression through the spine
● Herniated discs
● Tumours and cancer as they grow can press on surrounding nerves
● HIV / AIDS and the anti-viral drugs used to treat it
● Diabetes and high levels of glucose in the blood
● Physical injuries which has crushed, compressed or severed nerves
● Back surgery
● Multiple myeloma
● Multiple sclerosis
Sciatica is a painful condition that affects the legs and back. Pain travels along the sciatic nerve which runs through your spine, hip and buttock, down through the back of the leg to the foot. There are a range of causes of this kind of pain and many sciatic nerve treatments can help minimise the discomfort.
There is a wide choice of sciatic nerve pain medications and therapies including:
● Resting your body
● Education on how to care for your back
● A range of physical therapies
● Pain medications
● Lifestyle adjustments
Mild cases of sciatica often go away in time, especially after rest and stretching. Returning to activity after one to two days of total rest is imperative to ensure you stay strong. If symptoms caused by sciatic nerve pain persist, you can consult your GP for further intervention such as an injection into the spine or in some more severe cases, surgery.
When it comes to strategies for nerve pain relief, there are many options and some will be more effective for you depending on the severity of the neuralgia. In addition to pain relief for neuralgia, there are at-home treatments that can help protect your overall health and prevent serious problems from arising. Nerve pain medication can be prescribed to you by a medical practitioner if other more practical routes have been exhausted or are not preferred.
Aside from medications, some helpful nerve pain treatments you can access or perform yourself can include:
● Keeping on top of existing medical conditions such as diabetes or other blood sugar imbalances as this can cause neuralgia in some cases
● Staying active — a slow and gentle walk can help to release endorphins, promote blood flow and loosen up tight muscles
● Look after your feet as they are affected by nerve pain in a lot of cases — this could mean orthotics, choosing comfortable shoes or not walking long distances
● Soak your body in a warm bath at home which increases your blood flow to the legs and can help ease the stress associated with neuralgia
● Avoid alcohol as it can exacerbate nerve pain
● Try meditation techniques that include visualisation or hypnosis as this can be helpful when you are living with chronic pain
There is a rare chance that nerve pain may be cured, however, in the vast majority of cases, people need to manage the symptoms of nerve pain in the long term. Nerve pain can recur at any point in your life, and each time it flares, you should seek the advice of a medical professional. When you are suffering from neuralgia, it can be a sign that there may be something else going on. To successfully find true nerve pain relief, you will need to go a little deeper and look at other causes.
Nerve pain can often go away on its own but sometimes it can be chronic and debilitating, requiring ongoing nerve pain treatments. When you’re suffering severe and unrelenting nerve pain that comes and goes, it can be the result of a malfunction in your nervous system or from damage to certain nerves. There may be injuries in surrounding tissues or bones that impact neuralgia.
Consulting a medical professional can assist in finding what works for you when trying to help with nerve pain.
Nerve pain is quite distinct compared to a broken bone or soft tissue damage. Nerve pain is generally located in quite specific areas of the body including your back, legs, arms, hands, and feet. Where a cut finger may undulate and pulse or arthritic pain may ache and make you feel stiff, neuralgia is a little different.
Neuropathic pain can often feel like the following:
● Numbness or tingling in feet and hands
● Loss of balance and falling
● Throbbing and sharp pain
● Extreme sensitivity to touch
● Dropping things with your hands
● Muscle weakness
● Heavy feeling in arms and legs
● A dramatic drop in blood pressure
● Difficulty digesting
● Excessive sweating
The shooting, burning and sharp shock kind of pain can be effectively treated with many different nerve pain medications. For the electrical pulse sensation that sciatica can cause through your back, legs and feet, there are benefits to trying sciatic nerve treatments and medications, that can be recommended by a doctor who specialises in this issue.