Pain can be defined as a response to the damage of a tissue or organ of the body. Without pain, we wouldn’t know if there was a problem with our body. Pain can be categorized as nociceptive pain and neuropathic pain.
Nociceptive pain is a pain signal sent by nerve endings at the site of injury to the brain, and can be easily treated with traditional painkillers. Neuropathic pain is a very intense burning, aching, shooting, stabbing or electric shock-like pain, which is felt when nerves are damaged or injured as a result of certain conditions, causing a misfire of pain signals to the brain. Certain diseases and injuries can increase the sensitivity of nerves so that non-painful signals, such as a gentle touch or cold breeze results in intolerable pain. These neuropathic type pains are often worse at night.
The main cause of neuropathic pain is related to dysfunction of the nervous system, either central (brain or spinal cord) or peripheral nervous system (nerves supplying the rest of the body). The possible causes of this damage include excessive alcohol consumption, nerve compression by a tumor, B12 vitamin deficiency, certain medicines, trauma and certain disease conditions such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, HIV/AIDS and diabetes.
Neuropathic pain is diagnosed by reviewing your medical history and performing a thorough physical examination. Your doctor may also order blood tests, MRI scans, nerve biopsy or nerve conduction tests (to observe the conduction of nerves).
Managing the underlying cause is critical to the treatment of neuropathic pain. Your doctor may prescribe anticonvulsants (control seizures), antiarrhythmic (stabilize abnormal heart beats) and antidepressant drugs. Non-pharmacological techniques such as electrical stimulation of the nerves with electrodes, acupuncture and cognitive behavior therapy may significantly control pain symptoms.