Like many kinds of pain, neuropathic pain has several potential causes and ways that it could be treated. When conventional treatments don’t work and the pain is chronic, the situation can get scary. But the more you know about your condition, the better you can seek out treatment options.
When Neuropathy Becomes Chronic
Neuropathic pain becomes chronic when it lasts three or more months and affects your quality of life. Still, it’s also essential to recognize that chronic pain may not have a specific, identifiable cause by its very nature. Your healthcare provider may be able to identify problems with your central nervous system (the brain and spine) and nerves throughout your body, but what’s causing that pain can remain unknown.
There are two main kinds of chronic pain to be aware of, neuropathic pain and nociceptive pain. Neuropathic pain encompasses a broad range of discomfort. Generally, it relates to problems with your central nervous system not working right – with neurotransmitters firing pain signals and transporting them anywhere in your body where nerves are present.
Nociceptive pain is a different chronic pain because it’s caused by bodily tissues being harmed.
People with chronic nerve pain report a variety of possible causes. Some can be avoided, others not so much:
- Facial nerve ailments.
- HIV infection or AIDS.
- Central nervous system disorders.
- Complex regional pain syndrome.
- Chemotherapy drugs.
- Radiation therapy.
- Spinal nerve inflammation or compression.
- Trauma or surgeries causing nerve damage.
- Nerve compression or tumors.
Symptoms of neuropathic pain
If you have neuropathic pain which has become chronic, it’s not unusual to have different symptoms, which may include:
- You have spontaneous pain or pain that isn’t caused by any known stimulus. It’s often described as a tingling, pins and needles sensation, or numbness.
- Pain derived from something you wouldn’t think would generally bring discomfort, like cold, tender brushing against your skin, mild pressure, etc. This kind of evoked pain is also called allodynia. It’s called hyperalgesia when the pain worsens due to typically painful things like pinpricks and heat.
- Pain, either spontaneous or evoked, is also known as dysesthesia.
- Problems sleeping and emotional issues caused by restless sleep and pain.
Neuropathic pain, whether chronic or not, is common. According to some experts, it may eventually happen to 25 to 30% of all Americans. Even though anyone can experience such pain, it’s more prevalent in older people, with anyone 65 years old or older at greater risk.
When talking about chronic neuropathic pain, it’s important to consider the economic burden. Some reports peg the cost at a startling $560 to $635 billion each year, including direct-care costs, missed days, and lower wages.
Neuropathic and chronic pain often follow the same diagnostic process, even though no specific test can identify either with 100% accuracy. Your healthcare provider will document your medical history and perform a physical examination. If there’s a suspicion of a nerve injury, common neuropathic pain symptoms can be identified. Your provider will then attempt to uncover the underlying reason for the neuropathy and trace its symptoms.
For many people with chronic neuropathy, popular ways to reduce the pain are to treat the underlying cause, provide relief with a prescription or over-the-counter medicine, make changes to diet and lifestyle, physical or occupational therapy, psychotherapy, or even treatments like ketamine. But not everyone is comfortable with these options. Thankfully, there are ways to manage chronic neuropathic pain naturally, without medicine:
- Drink enough fluids. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average male needs to drink 15.5 cups of water a day: the average woman, about 11.5 cups.
- Manage your diet and eat healthily. Chronic nerve pain symptoms can often be managed by eating foods that boost your immune system and reduce inflammation at the pain point. Get rid of junk foods and instead choose a range of healthy options.
- Try yoga, meditation, or other integrative medicine techniques. These combine the natural power of breath, movement, and mindfulness to reduce pain by calming the mind.
- Get regular exercise.
- Physical therapy.
Living with untreated neuropathic pain can feel like living in a cage. There are many things you can do on your own to reduce the symptoms. If these aren’t enough, you may want to consider ketamine therapy. Ketamine acts as an inhibitor in NMDA receptors, a prominent pain receptor in the central nervous system, and promotes new neural growth which diminishes pain and may reroute the brain in ways that counteracts neuropathy long-term. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help!