Chronic pain is something that impacts a significant number of people throughout the United States. But even though the prevalence of chronic pain is so high, there’s still a lot that’s left unknown about different types of pain. This includes neurogenic pain.
Neurogenic pain is a term that’s used to describe pain that originates from the nervous system. However, the nervous system is responsible for many different functions in the human body, so recognizing the symptoms of and understanding the term neurogenic pain can sometimes be difficult. That’s why we’re going to cover three causes behind this type of pain below. Read on so that you can better understand what you are experiencing and take the next steps to get the proper treatment.
1. Neuropathic Pain
Neurogenic pain is a term that is sometimes used interchangeably with neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain, however, is actually a type of neurogenic pain. The main factor that differentiates these two would be that neuropathic pain stems from an injury or illness that affects the nervous system. On the other hand and more generally, neurogenic pain results from a problem in either the central or peripheral nervous system, which can include neuropathic pain.
Neuropathic pain can feel appear through a variety of symptoms, including:
- Burning sensations
- Shooting or sharp pain
- Pain with touch
It can be challenging to diagnose neuropathic pain because there is not a specific way to test for it. Rather, a healthcare expert will take note of your current symptoms as well as your medical history to see if they match the criteria for a diagnosis of neuropathic pain. Usually, if you’ve had a surgery, injury, or an illness that has impacted the nervous system and you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, this knowledge will give your doctor a clearer direction when it comes to understanding if you have neuropathic pain or not.
If you are having the symptoms of neuropathic pain, but you have not experienced an injury or illness and you are not recovering from any medical procedures that could have affected your nerves, your doctor might go back describing what you are feeling as, broadly, neurogenic pain instead. As always, be sure to speak with your doctor about all of your medical history and symptoms so that they can best assess what you are experiencing.
Interestingly, certain medications can actually cause neurogenic and neuropathic pain. More specifically, chemotherapy drugs are known to damage the peripheral nervous system. According to the American Cancer Society, this is called chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN).
When chemotherapy harms the nervous system, it can cause a variety of issues. Some examples of these concerns involving neurogenic pain would be:
- Arms and legs feeling numb
- Pins and needles sensation in limbs
- Weakness in limbs
- Generalized pain throughout the body
Not only does this cause a lot of discomfort to people who are having CIPN or other medication-related neuropathy, but it can lead to even more serious and long-lasting issues. Daily activities might become impossible to do. Additionally, the nervous system might be so damaged that it leads to extreme pain, breathing difficulties, and even paralysis in some cases.
Though these medications are often necessary in combating the cancer, it’s important to take into consideration all of the possible side effects before making a decision on the type of treatment that will benefit you most. Furthermore, talking to your doctor to have a plan in place for pain management for CIPN is essential in treating it before it begins to negatively impact your life.
3. Specific Medical Conditions
Another huge contribution to neurogenic pain would be specific medical conditions. There are 3 medical conditions that can directly cause nerve pain, including:
- Diabetes—This condition greatly impacts your blood sugar levels. In turn, these high blood glucose levels can cause nerve damage. This is a type of neurogenic pain known as diabetic neuropathy. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases explains that the symptoms for diabetic neuropathy depend on the type you are diagnosed with, but can range anywhere from tingling in the hands and feet to bladder issues or even more intense chronic pain concerns.
- Complex regional pain syndrome—Nerve pain is the main characteristic of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). This condition can make the simplest things painful, including changes in temperature or light touches. CRPS usually develops after an injury or trauma to the arms or legs. The symptoms of CRPS can be short- or long-lasting and oftentimes require treatment to alleviate the pain.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)—MS is a neurological condition that can be extremely detrimental to people who have it. Muscle weakness, difficulty concentrating, hearing loss, nerve pain, and more are all symptoms of MS. This condition needs to be closely monitored, as there is no cure for multiple sclerosis and flare ups in MS can greatly impact someone’s ability to have fun, exercise, and live comfortably and happily. That said, there are treatments out there for MS as well as other neurogenic pain symptoms that can be helpful.
How To Treat and Cope With Neurogenic Pain
Treating neurogenic pain depends on the type of pain you are experiencing. Most commonly, the following treatments have been effective in helping to decrease the severity of nerve pain:
- Physical therapy
- Taking supplements
- Following a specialized diet
- Spinal cord stimulation
- Joining support groups
As you can see, treatment doesn’t just focus on the physical. While things like antidepressants can slow down pain signals from reaching your brain or physical therapy can strengthen and heal different areas of your body, it’s also important to take care of your emotional well-being when dealing with the challenges of neurogenic pain.
This could include getting counseling services to help you cope if you are diagnosed with one of these causes of neurogenic pain or if you are struggling with depression or other mental health concerns as a side effect of these conditions. This might also look like finding the right pain management doctor who will listen to all of your concerns and work toward a solution.
Moreover, joining a community, such as the Pain Resource Community, with others who live with nerve pain and other chronic conditions can take away some feelings of loneliness. After all, having the right support behind you is essential to managing your pain and improving the quality of your life, day by day.
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