Living with nerve pain
Nerve pain (neuropathic pain) affects about one in every 20 people in Australia. It is caused by damage to nerves that feel pain, touch and temperature. The pain has been described as a burning, shooting or crawling sensation or like electric shocks, and there are often other feelings, such as numbness or pins and needles that accompany the nerve pain. Nerve pain is often severe, ongoing and can be difficult to treat.
What happens when you have nerve pain?
Usually, pain is felt when your nerve endings sense that something is wrong with your body and send pain signals to your spinal cord and brain. Nerve pain occurs when the nerves themselves are damaged by disease or injury, causing them to misfire and send pain signals to the brain.
Symptoms of nerve pain
People with nerve pain are often extremely sensitive to normal painful stimuli i.e. they feel pain more intensely than other people. They may also have increased sensitivity to touch or cold, and may perceive nonpainful stimuli, such as light-touch or gentle brushing of the skin, as painful.
Specific types of nerve pain
Sometimes it is not possible to determine the exact cause of nerve pain but there are a number of well-known causes including:
- nerve compression (trapped nerve), such as in carpal tunnel syndrome or sciatica
- infections such as shingles
Treatment commonly involves a multidisciplinary approach involving your GP as well as your osteopath. In some instances, treatment from a psychologist is also helpful.
Treatment, using a whole person approach, may include medication, counselling, relaxation techniques, the use of a TENS machine, osteopathic treatment and advice on appropriate exercises and physical activity.
Work with your osteopath to set realistic goals for managing your pain, and review these regularly.
Physical activity can help reduce stress and improve fitness. Gentle stretching and yoga can be good options. Make sure you pace yourself and plan your activities carefully so that you are not overdoing it. Getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet are also important. Your osteopath at Blackburn Osteopathy can help you establish a self-care plan.
For more information
Australian Pain Management Association
NPS Medicinewise. Nerve pain, explained