Chronic pain can come in many different forms. Somatic, visceral and neuropathic pain are just a few types of pain that an estimated 100 million Americans suffer from. Neuropathic pain, or nerve pain, continues to be a significant medical issue, as a reported 7-8% of adults currently have chronic pain with neuropathic characteristics.
In neuropathic pain the nerve fibers that are involved in sending pain signals might be damaged, dysfunctional or injured, which is impactful because nerves communicate in a network that transmits information to every part of the body. When nerves are damaged or dysfunctional, incorrect signals can be sent and result in pain even after an injury heals.
Neuropathic pain itself can be subdivided into many different categories, in fact more than 100 types of neuropathy have been identified. These categories are broadly grouped based on where the nerves are damaged or dysfunctional, how many nerves are damaged, and what part of the body is affected. Neuropathic pain can be caused by injury, diseases or disorders (such as diabetes or cancer), infections, toxins (such as heavy alcohol consumption) and can be hereditary. Symptoms can range from numbness or tingling, to pricking or burning sensations and can vary depending on what types of nerves are damaged.
When it comes to managing neuropathic pain and determining a treatment plan, the first step is to see if there is a treatment for an obvious issue that is causing the complex pain and treat it. Examples of this include a treatable infection, correcting vitamin deficiencies, avoiding exposure to toxins, and limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption.
Once those issues have been addressed and further treatment is needed, then a variety of modalities can be useful. The following methods can help relieve neuropathic pains:
- Leading a healthy lifestyle, including a diet dense in fruits, vegetables and lean protein
- Smoking cessation
- Prescription drugs including antiepileptic, antidepressants and/or topical preparations
- Non-pharmacological or complimentary approaches like acupuncture
For injured workers who are seeking an alternative option to opioids or prescription medication altogether, there are several options that may be beneficial to recovery. IWP recently released Patient Pain Resource for Injured Workers, a pamphlet on chronic pain and potential treatment options. From cognitive behavior therapy to tips for caretakers, this guide is a valuable source of information for individuals dealing with chronic pain.