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Nerve Pain: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

Last Updated: Oct 14, 2021

What is the treatment?

The countless nerves in our body send signals to the brain including the signal for pain. Pain has a very important function of protecting our body against external damage. But this signaling does not work properly in people with nerve pain. They might get the sensation of pain but without understanding its cause. Nerve pain, which is also known as peripheral neuropathy or peripheral neuritis, usually occurs due to some physical damage or disease.

Cancer and other tumors can cause neuropathic pain as the tumors tend to press on the surrounding nerves. Chemotherapy drugs can also cause nerve pain as they can damage the nerves. One of the first symptoms of a person suffering from HIV is nerve pain in the hands and feet. A diabetic person is prone to nerve pain as high levels of glucose in blood can damage the nerves. A person can suffer from severe nerve pain if he/she suffers from postherpetic neuralgia. Nerves can also get severed, compressed or crushed due to some physical injury and this may cause nerve pain.

The treatment for nerve pain depends on the age of the patient, underlying cause, costs and potential side effects. A person will have to undertake treatment for the underlying disease in such cases. However the different treatments options for nerve pain include use of topical treatments, anticonvulsants, anti-depressants, pain killers, electrical stimulation and, in some cases, surgery.

What does Nerve Pain feel like?

Nerve Pain referred to as neuralgia, is a very specific type of pain that is associated with a feeling of stabbing, shooting, or burning sensation. The pain may resemble an electric shock i.e sharp and sudden. It makes the individual over-sensitive to certain stimuli such as cold or touch and is accompanied by the feeling of pain. It worsens during nighttime.

What is the difference between muscle pain and Nerve Pain?

Muscle pain is an aching pain that usually feels like stiffness in the muscles. It is a localized type of pain and is aggravated only by the use of particular muscles. On the other hand, Nerve Pain is felt as a stabbing, crushing, or burning pain that also induces numbness and tingling sensations. It may be continuous or intermittent. The pain can be felt in the nerves as well as the skin above them.

How is the treatment done?

The treatment for nerve pain involves the use of anticonvulsants and tricyclic anti-depressants such as Amitriptyline, Nortriptyline and Desipramine. There are also other prescribed anti-depressants such as Venlafaxine and bupropion which are very effective for some people. Doctors may also prescribe Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) like Paroxetine and Citalopram. Sometimes, a person may also be given non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Aleve or Motrin to deal with nerve pain.

Sometimes topical treatments like creams, gels, lotions and patches help to deal with nerve pain. A doctor can recommend anticonvulsants together with anti-depressants to a patient suffering from nerve pain. Tricyclic antidepressants can help to deal with nerve pain caused due to diabetes, HIV or cancer chemotherapy. People suffering from severe nerve pain or from nerve pain due to cancer generally opt for opioid painkillers. Furthermore, some treatments like transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) use electrical impulses to block the pain signals sent by the damaged nerves.

When all other treatments fail, a doctor may recommend anesthetic injections to ease the pain. The doctor may also recommend surgery. Sometimes alternative therapy like meditation, acupuncture and massaging the affected nerve can produce favourable results. Making some changes in lifestyle also help to deal with nerve pain.

Does Nerve Pain go away?

Nerve Pain or neuralgia usually go away spontaneously in case it is mild. It need not be treated in such cases and the pain sometimes gets over while it subsides the next moment. On the other hand, neuralgia may be chronic in some cases resulting in long and severe pain. It needs to be treated under a specialist’s supervision.

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

A person suffering from nerve pain can experience symptoms of pain, a pin-and –needle sensation, numbness and weakness. A person may feel a burning or tingling and sharp sensation while the main areas where a person may experience pain are back, hands, thigh, foot and face. A person may also experience poor balance in his/her entire body and have tingling fingers of feet and slow reflexes. A person experiencing these symptoms is eligible for treatment. Nerve pain can affect a person badly and without any apparent reason. In such cases, a person can seek treatment.

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Who is not eligible for the treatment?

A person suffering from pain due to cuts, bruises and or some injury is not eligible for treatment of nerve pain. A person suffering from some chronic disease or some mental ailment should consult a doctor before taking any medications for treating nerve pain.

Are there any side effects?

The side-effects associated with the use of tricyclic antidepressants are blurred vision, sweating, dry mouth, restlessness, drowsiness, dizziness and racing heartbeat. The anticonvulsants used to treat nerve pain can cause drowsiness, dizziness, swelling in the legs and feet and confusion. The possible side-effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can be dry mouth, drowsiness, nausea, nervousness, agitation, diarrhea and even sexual problems like reduced sexual appetite. Anesthetic injections can cause swelling, bruising, itching or redness in the area where the injections have been administered. They may also cause mild dizziness and nausea.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

A doctor will generally advice a patient to take rest and to adopt a healthy diet so that he/she can keep nerve pain at bay. Light exercises may also be recommended to ease the pain. A person will also have to regularly monitor his/her blood sugar levels as high blood sugar levels can cause nerve damage. A person should incorporate foods rich in Vitamin B12 and anti-oxidants as they help to build up nerves.

How long does it take to recover?

A person suffering from nerve pain due to nerve damage will take a lot of time to recover. Some damaged nerves can be surgically repaired and a person will take about 3-6 months to recover from that. However, in case of nerve pain due to not so serious a cause, a person can recover within a week or two with the help of medications. However, in some cases, the nerve damage can be irreversible and a person can suffer for his/her lifetime.

Is heat good for Nerve Pain?

Application of heat proves to be effective in getting relief from the pain. Based on the fact of increasing blood flow to the affected area ensures enough oxygen as well as nutrients reaching that particular region, thereby easing the relaxation of the rigid muscles due to the Nerve Pain.

How long does Nerve Pain last?

The duration of the recovery in case of Nerve Pain basically depends upon the cause and severity of the problem. It is 6 to 12 weeks in case the particular nerve has undergone trauma or bruising while it takes about 4 weeks when it is cut. Sensory nerves take up to months or years to recover from injury while Motor nerves need 12 to 18 months to be healed.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

The cost of treatment for nerve pain varies greatly depending on the diagnosis, methods of treatment and the type of interventions used. If you have a minor neuropathic pain that can be treated with drugs, it may cost between Rs 5000 and Rs 20000. However, for surgical and related procedures, a person may have to pay 6-15 lakhs depending on the hospital and the city.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

Nerve pain generally occurs to some disease or physical damage. Nerve pain causes a person to get the sensation of pain without understanding the cause. It is a complex scenario and the results depend on the condition and also the treatment that is given to the patient. When nerve pain occurs due to conditions like HIV or diabetes, a person may have to deal with the disease first. The person will recover completely only after he/she has successfully dealt with the disease. A person suffering from nerve pain due to nerve damage has a hard time recovering completely.

What foods trigger Nerve Pain?

Nerve Pain has a proven relationship with the diet. The food items that induce Nerve Pain include the sources containing excess amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, trans fats, and sodium nitrates as well as foods having a high glycemic index and artificial sweeteners, along with alcohol. Examples of these are corn, seed oils like sunflower seed oil, canola, and margarine, processed meats, honey or agave, aspartame, etc.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

Nerve pain due to diabetes can be managed by following a healthy diet, managing the blood glucose levels, exercising lightly and also by quitting smoking and drinking. A person suffering from nerve pain in his/her foot can treat it by checking the feet regularly, going to a podiatrist and wearing comfortable shoes. The easiest and least expensive home treatment for nerve pain is a warm bath.

What helps Nerve Pain naturally?

Treatment for Nerve Pain usually depends upon the cause. Pain reduction is the main goal of the treatment. Some of the natural ways by which it can be managed to be treated are such as:

  • Intake of vitamins, such as vitamin B and vitamin D.
  • Consumption of cayenne pepper as a part of the diet.
  • Quitting habits such as smoking.
  • Taking a warm bath.
  • Lifestyle changes such as physical activity, exercises, and meditation.
  • Application of acupuncture technique.
  • Use of essential oils such as chamomile and Roman lavender.
Summary: Nerve Pain referred to as neuralgia, is a very specific type of pain that is associated with a feeling of stabbing, shooting, or burning sensation. It is accompanied by pain which usually worsens at night. Control and management of the condition involve self-care techniques and home remedies such as intake of vitamins, quitting habits such as smoking, taking a warm bath, and lifestyle changes such as physical activity, exercises, and meditation.

References

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Written ByDr. Arun Sharma MBBS,MS - General Surgery,MCh - Neuro SurgeryNeurology
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