Chronic neuropathic pain is like an alarm that never shuts off. Your nerves become damaged and keep sending constant emergency signals of shooting, stabbing, and burning pain.
Except there is no actual fire to put out or injury to heal. The nerves misfire endlessly, disrupting your life with agonizing discomfort and robbing your ability to feel normal.
If you suffer from nerve pain, you know the ceaseless torture. The difficulty finding restful sleep. The loss of enjoyment from life’s pleasures. The frustrating search for a cure or way to dial down the volume on the pain alarm. You may feel hopeless and isolated in your suffering, unsure where to turn.
But there are treatments that can help turn down your nerve pain signals and improve your quality of life. Certain medications can recalibrate faulty pain messaging.
Alternative techniques like acupuncture, physical therapy, and mindfulness practice can complement other therapies. While not curable, neuropathy and neuralgia can often be well-managed through an integrated treatment approach.
This comprehensive guide on medicines nerve pain treatment for nerve pain provides you with information on the various medication and non-medication treatment options for nerve pain relief.
We cover everything from antiseizure drugs and antidepressants to massage, psychological approaches, and lifestyle changes. You’ll also find resources on where to turn for education, support, and advocacy.
While the journey to optimal pain management can be long, you don’t have to travel it alone. Help and hope exist.
What is nerve pain?
Nerve pain, also called neuropathic pain, is a chronic condition that affects the nerves. It occurs when nerves are damaged or injured. The pain signals that are sent to the brain get mixed up, causing constant pain signals to be transmitted. This can result in symptoms like shooting, stabbing, or burning pain.
Nerve pain can be caused by a wide range of conditions, including:
- Diabetes – Diabetic neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes that damages nerves.
- Shingles – An infection that affects the nerves. Postherpetic neuralgia is lingering nerve pain after shingles.
- Spinal cord injury – Damage to nerve fibers in the spinal cord can lead to neuropathic pain.
- Chemotherapy – Some chemotherapy drugs can damage nerves, causing neuropathic pain.
- HIV – Neuropathy is a common complication, damaging peripheral nerves.
- Multiple sclerosis – Nerve fibers become damaged due to demyelination.
- Nerve compression or entrapment – Conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome compress nerves.
- Traumatic nerve injury – Accidents, surgery, or injuries that sever nerves.
- Stroke – A stroke can lead to central neuropathic pain.
Nerve pain is challenging to treat because the underlying nerves may be permanently damaged. The pain signals to the brain get amplified, causing severe discomfort.
What are the symptoms of nerve pain?
The main symptoms of nerve pain include:
- Shooting pain – Short bursts of sharp, jabbing, electric pain.
- Stabbing pain – Sudden, severe spontaneous pain.
- Burning pain – A painful, hot sensation, often worse at night.
- Tingling or pins and needles – Prickling or numb sensations.
- Numbness – Decreased or lost sensation in the affected area.
- Sensitivity – Increased sensitivity to touch or temperature changes.
- Difficulty sleeping – The constant pain can prevent restful sleep.
- Weakness – Weakness or loss of coordination in the limbs with affected nerves.
- Muscle spasms – Involuntary muscle twitches or spasms.
The location and severity of symptoms can help identify the affected nerves. Nerve pain often follows the pathway of the damaged nerves. For example, sciatic nerve pain radiates down the sciatic nerve trail in the legs.
Keeping a pain diary with details about symptoms can help when discussing treatment options with a doctor. Many describe the pain as constant torture, greatly reducing the quality of life.
What causes nerve pain?
Nerve pain is caused by damage to the nerves in the peripheral and central nervous system. This damage interferes with the nerve signals between the brain and the rest of the body.
Common causes of nerve injuries include:
- Daibetes – Raised blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels supplying nerves.
- Viral infections – Shingles, HIV, and herpes viruses can affect the nerves or nerve roots.
- Autoimmune diseases – Disorders like multiple sclerosis attack nerve fibers.
- Radiation/Chemotherapy – Cancer treatments damage cell DNA including nerve cells.
- Physical trauma – Car accidents, fractures, and stitches can injure nerves.
- Repetitive motion – Carpal tunnel syndrome compresses the median nerve.
- Toxins – Heavy metal poisoning, drug/alcohol abuse can harm nerves.
- Tumors – Cancerous or benign growths put pressure on surrounding nerves.
- Vitamin deficiencies – Lack of B vitamins affects nerve functioning.
- Genetics – Some inherited disorders make nerves prone to damage.
- Ischemia – Reduced blood flow deprives nerves of oxygen and nutrients.
Identifying the underlying cause is key to finding an effective treatment plan. Treating the root cause can help prevent further nerve deterioration and stimulate healing.
How Will I Be Diagnosed with Nerve Pain?
To diagnose nerve pain, doctors conduct a physical exam and review medical history. They will check for altered sensations along the pathways of major nerves. Commonly used diagnostic tests include:
- Pinprick test – Using a pin, the doctor checks if you can feel sensations like touch, pain, hot, cold over different areas. Numbness indicates possible nerve damage.
- Reflex tests – Abnormal or increased reflexes may indicate compressed or overactive nerves.
- Vibration test – A tuning fork is used to detect vibratory sensitivity, which is reduced with nerve issues.
- Electromyography – Measures muscle reactions to see how well nerves are communicating with muscles.
- Quantitative sensory testing – Determines thresholds for detecting touch, pain, and temperature to locate affected nerves.
- Nerve conduction study – Records how fast electrical signals move through a nerve. Slow rates indicate nerve compression.
- Nerve biopsy – Removing and analyzing a small part of a nerve to check for damage.
- Blood tests – Diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, and toxins causing nerve pain can be detected.
- Imaging – MRI or CT scans to pinpoint compressed nerves or tissue abnormalities putting pressure on nerves.
Diagnosing nerve pain requires patience, as many tests may be needed to find the source. Keeping a detailed pain log helps doctors make an accurate diagnosis.
How will my nerve pain be treated?
The main treatment goal for nerve pain is reducing the chronic pain and discomfort. As nerve damage is often irreversible, treatment focuses on managing symptoms. Common options include:
Medications: Anti-seizure drugs and antidepressants can help change how pain signals are perceived. Opioids may be used for short-term severe nerve pain. Topical treatments like capsaicin creams, lidocaine patches can numb localized pain. Combining different medication types is often most effective.
Alternative therapies: Acupuncture, massage, yoga, and relaxation techniques help relieve nerve pain for some people. Therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback can teach pain coping skills.
Interventional procedures: Injections of steroids or anesthetics can block pain signals. Nerve ablation with heat or chemicals destroys damaged nerves transmitting pain. Spinal cord stimulation sends tingling sensations to interfer with pain signals.
Surgery: If nerve pain is due to compressed nerves or tissue abnormalities, surgery may help relieve the source of compression. However, this doesn’t always resolve nerve pain symptoms that have already begun.
Lifestyle changes: Light exercise like walking and swimming keeps blood circulating to help nerves heal. Maintaining healthy blood sugar and weight reduces pressure on nerves. Stress management and restful sleep also help in overall pain management.
What works best varies by individual. A multidisciplinary plan combining pain medications, alternative therapies, lifestyle changes often provides the most pain relief. Patience is needed, as finding an optimal treatment regimen takes time.
Pain Treatment for Nerve Pain Medicines Nerve Pain – What medicines will help my nerve pain?
There are many different medication options for helping relieve nerve pain, including:
- Gabapentin (Neurontin) – Originally developed to prevent seizures, it also reduces pain signals. Common side effects include dizziness and drowsiness.
- Pregabalin (Lyrica) – Works on calcium channels involved in pain processing. May cause weight gain, swelling, and blurry vision.
- Carbamazepine – Used for trigeminal neuralgia, it blocks excessive electrical nerve impulses. Can cause nausea, and dizziness.
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta) – Prevents reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine, chemicals that modulate pain signals. May cause sweating, insomnia, and digestive issues.
- Amitriptyline – Tricyclic antidepressant that relieves nerve pain independently of effects on depression. Causes dry mouth, drowsiness, and dizziness.
- Capsaicin cream – Made from chili peppers, it desensitizes pain fibers when applied to the skin. Causes a burning sensation initially.
- Lidocaine patches – Local anesthetic action provides temporary numbness and pain relief. Can cause rash, and itching.
For short-term flares, opioids or medical marijuana may be prescribed. However, these carry risks of dependency and side effects. Finding the right medication or combination takes trial and error. Non-drug therapies also help complement pharmacological treatments.
What strategies can help with nerve pain?
Along with medications, various non-drug techniques can help in managing nerve pain:
- Exercise – Low-impact activities like walking, swimming, and yoga keep muscles flexible and the body moving. This improves blood circulation which promotes nerve healing.
- Heat/Cold therapy – Applying heating pads, ice packs, or alternating heat and cold to painful areas provides natural pain relief for some.
- Massage – Gentle massage stimulates blood flow, relaxes muscles, and blocks pain signal transmission. Adding menthol or lavender oil enhances the soothing effects.
- Acupuncture – Thin needles are inserted in specific body points to reduce pain sensations. Electroacupuncture adds small electrical currents for amplified effects.
- Meditation and imagery – Visualizing pleasant scenes, repeating mantras, and mindfulness meditation shifts focus away from the pain. Relaxed breathing lowers stress.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – CBT helps identify unhelpful thought patterns that exacerbate pain and learn new coping skills.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) – TENS machines transmit small electrical pulses through electrodes placed on the skin to interfere with pain signals.
- Biofeedback – This uses electrical sensors to teach people how to control involuntary body processes like muscle tension, skin temperature, and heart rate to aid relaxation.
Using two or more complementary techniques generally provides greater improvements in pain, mobility, and quality of life. Consistency is key for long-term relief from nerve pain.
Resources and support
Living with nerve pain can be isolating. Connecting with others experiencing neuropathic pain can help you feel understood. Useful resources include:
- Joining local or online support groups through organizations like the Neuropathy Alliance of Texas or the California Neuropathy Facebook Group.
- Finding message boards like those at Neuropathy Support Network to exchange tips with fellow neuropathy sufferers.
- Checking reputable medical sites like Mayo Clinic and WebMD that have extensive nerve pain resources.
- Reading inspiring stories and memoirs like Leslie Levine’s Transcending Neuralgia: A Twenty Year Journey.
- Following advocacy groups like the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association that push for research and education.
- Reaching out to a mental health professional for therapy and learning cognitive coping techniques.
- Discuss alternative medicine options like acupuncture or massage with certified practitioners.
- Talk to your doctor about occupational therapy, physical therapy, or visiting a multidisciplinary pain clinic.
The more you reach out, the more you realize you are not alone. It can be a challenge to find the right specialists and treatment plan.
However being a self-advocate and seeking help from others who empathize helps reduce feelings of isolation and improve overall wellbeing.
Nerve pain medications
Nerve pain, also called neuropathic pain, is notoriously difficult to treat. When nerves become damaged, the pain signals that are sent to the brain get amplified.
This results in chronic pain symptoms that are often severe and debilitating. While there is no cure, medications can help dampen the pain signals at various points along the pain pathway.
Anticonvulsant drugs were originally designed to prevent seizures and suppress electrical misfiring in the brain. Many of these medications also help tone down the amplified pain signals caused by nerve injuries. Common anticonvulsants used include:
- Gabapentin – This works by altering calcium channel activity which helps regulate excessive pain signals from damaged nerves. Common side effects include dizziness, fatigue, and peripheral edema (swelling).
- Pregabalin – Similar mechanism to gabapentin by suppressing hyperexcited nerve impulses. May cause blurred vision, weight gain, and irritability.
- Carbamazepine – Used specifically for trigeminal neuralgia, it blocks sodium channels involved in pain signaling. Side effects include nausea, headaches, and blood disorders in some patients.
Certain types of antidepressants have also been found effective for nerve pain. They work by increasing levels of chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine that inhibit pain signals. Options include:
- SNRI medications – Duloxetine and venlafaxine prevent the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine. Side effects include insomnia, sweating, and loss of appetite.
- TCA medications – Amitriptyline and nortriptyline are tricyclic antidepressants that relieve nerve pain, independent of their mood effects. They commonly cause dry mouth, dizziness, and drowsiness.
Topical treatments like capsaicin cream, lidocaine patches, and compounded medications are also used, especially for localized nerve pain.
Opioid medications may provide short-term relief but have high risks of tolerance and dependence. Using a combination of different medication classes often provides the greatest pain-relieving results.
Non-drug therapies also complement medication treatment. Finding the right medication regimen takes patience through trial and error, balancing pain relief with tolerable side effects.
With time, most people find a medication plan that provides notable improvements in neuropathic pain and quality of life.
Types of pain: Nociceptive vs. neuropathic
Not all pain is the same. Understanding the underlying mechanism helps determine which treatments will be most effective. The two main categories are:
- Caused by damage to body tissue like skin, muscles, joints, and organs. Activated by trauma, inflammation, or disease.
- Signals of actual or potential tissue injury are sent to the brain by nociceptors (specialized sensory neurons).
- Time-limited – Diminishes as the body heals. Responds to typical analgesics.
- Caused by damage or disease affecting the nerves themselves.
- Generated by malfunctioning pain signaling rather than external injury.
- Persists chronically long after initial trauma. Resistant to standard pain medications.
- Caused by direct nerve damage – compression, trauma, neuropathy.
- Characterized by burning, electric, tingling, shooting, prickling, and sensitivity.
- Most commonly caused by diabetes, shingles, cancer treatment, HIV, and multiple sclerosis.
Nociceptive pain serves a purpose – to alert us to possible tissue injury so we protect the area while it heals. Neuropathic pain is abnormal and maladaptive – pain signaling that continues after the body has healed.
Recognizing neuropathic vs. nociceptive mechanisms helps guide appropriate treatments. Anti-seizure, tricyclic antidepressants, and topical treatments target neuropathic pain specifically, while NSAIDs, and opioids treat nociceptive pain.
Correctly diagnosing the pain type is crucial for providing pain relief.
Medications for nerve pain
Living with chronic neuropathic pain from nerve injuries can greatly reduce quality of life. While medications cannot cure the damaged nerves, they can help dampen the amplified pain signals being transmitted to the brain. The main drug classes used include:
Certain types of antidepressants are very effective at relieving nerve pain, even in people without depression. They work by increasing chemical neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine that regulate pain signals. Types used include:
- SNRIs like duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor).
- TCAs like amitriptyline and nortriptyline.
Side effects may include drowsiness, dry mouth, insomnia, dizziness, sweating, and irritability.
Antiseizure medications help tone down excessive electrical activity in damaged nerves that causes pain. Gabapentin (Neurontin) and pregabalin (Lyrica) are first line treatments. Carbamazepine is also used, especially for trigeminal neuralgia. Side effects include fatigue, peripheral swelling, and cognitive effects.
Capsaicin creams, lidocaine patches, and compounded topical medications applied to the skin over painful areas provide localized pain relief for some. This spares systemic side effects of oral medications.
For short term flares, opioids, marijuana derivatives, or steroids may be prescribed with caution due to risks. Using two or more medications together is often most effective. Non-drug therapies also complement medication treatment. Finding the right regimen requires patience, persistence, and good communication with your doctor.
- Nerve pain arises from nerve damage causing abnormal pain signaling.
- It is chronic and can greatly reduce quality of life.
- Medications like anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and topical treatments can help reduce neuropathic pain.
- Non-drug therapies like exercise, massage, and acupuncture also complement medication treatment.
- Finding an optimal treatment regimen requires trying different medication combinations and perseverance.
- While not curable, with patience most people achieve significant pain relief and improvement in daily functioning.
What is nerve pain?
Nerve pain, also called neuropathic pain, refers to chronic pain arising from injury to the nerves themselves. This is different than nociceptive pain that signals actual tissue damage. With neuropathic pain, the pain signaling system gets impaired and keeps transmitting pain signals even after healing. This can lead to constant burning, shooting, stabbing pain.
What are the symptoms of nerve pain?
Symptoms vary by the affected nerves but often include shooting, burning, tingling, numbness, sensitivity to touch, muscle weakness or spasms. The pain follows the pathway of damaged nerves. It is often worse at night disrupting sleep.
What causes nerve pain?
- Multiple sclerosis
- Traumatic injury
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Autoimmune diseases
- Nerve compression
Basically any condition that can result in nerve damage. Diagnosing the underlying cause guides treatment.
How will I be diagnosed with nerve pain?
Through questions about medical history, description of symptoms, physical exam to check nerve sensations, and tests like:
- Nerve conduction
How will my nerve pain be treated?
There are various options to help manage nerve pain symptoms:
- Medications – Anti-seizure, antidepressants, topical treatments
- Interventional procedures – Nerve blocks, ablation, spinal stimulation
- Surgery – For compressed nerves
- Alternative therapies – Acupuncture, TENS, massage, mindfulness
- Lifestyle approaches – Light exercise, stress management, proper sleep
A multidisciplinary plan combining medications with non-drug therapies often works best. The goal is reducing pain and improving daily function.
What medicines will help my nerve pain?
Common medications used include:
- Anticonvulsants – Gabapentin, pregabalin, carbamazepine
- Antidepressants – SNRIs like duloxetine, TCAs like amitriptyline
- Topicals – Capsaicin cream, lidocaine patches
- Opioids for short term flares
Using 2 or more medications together is often more effective. Non-drug therapies complement medication treatment.
What strategies can help with nerve pain?
Non-medication ways to help manage nerve pain include:
- Light exercise – Walking, yoga, swimming
- Heat/ice therapy
- Massage, acupuncture
- Meditation, visualization
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Occupational therapy
Using a rehabilitative multidisciplinary approach improves overall pain management. Consistency with self-care provides gradual relief.
Resources and support
It helps to connect with others experiencing nerve pain through:
- Online/in-person support groups
- Message boards
- Reading inspirational memoirs
- Following advocacy organizations
- Mental health therapy
- Discussing alternative options with certified providers
Seeking external support aids coping and reduces feelings of isolation.
Here are 3 references to cite for the Nerve Shield Pro blog post:
- Benfotiamine for Peripheral Neuropathy: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4009120/
- Alpha Lipoic Acid for Symptomatic Peripheral Neuropathy: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5012740/
- Treatment of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathic Pain: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662082/