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Nerve Pain: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

What is the treatment? How is the treatment done? Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?) Who is not eligible for the treatment? Are there any side effects? What are the post-treatment guidelines? How long does it take to recover? What is the price of the treatment in India? Are the results of the treatment permanent? What are the alternatives to the treatment?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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