Various Treatment Options For Controlling Neuropathic Pain
Neuropathic pain is a very specific type of pain that is usually defined as pain that originates due to an injury to or inflammation within the central or peripheral nervous system, although it could also arise from a nervous system that is not functioning correctly; a dysfunctional nervous system in other words.
How Does Neuropathic Pain Present Itself?
Neuropathic pain is not something that comes and goes, but rather it is a persistent and chronic pain that can be quite sharp and often patients describe the pain as being like it is stabbing them or it is a piercing pain, not unlike an electric shock.
Some patients may also find that something fairly harmless such as light or heat etc can actually make the pain significantly worse. Some patients also find that an experience that should only be uncomfortable can again provoke severe pain, which can often be quite distressing for patients.
Although it is thought that only less than 10% of the UK population actually experience neuropathic pain, it is such a debilitating condition that for those who do experience it, their quality of life can be severely impaired, which can lead to associated problems of depression, lethargy and tiredness due to lack of sleep.
Treatment options for the management of neuropathic pain are varied, but there is one underlying strategy that must be implemented for successful pain management and that is to adopt a multi-disciplinary approach. Medication alone will not solve the problem and unless a multi-disciplinary approach is adopted, patients will find that their pain will not be successfully managed.
Thus no one treatment option should be viewed as a ‘magic bullet’. There is nothing that can simply eradicate neuropathic pain on its own, there has to be a combination of treatments used.
Broadly these treatments can be separated into three broad categories: psychological and educational, medication, and non-surgical procedures.
Psychological and Educational Treatment Options
All psychological and educational treatments look at how the patient can be informed so that they can manage their pain better, how talking about the pain and the effect it has on them can help and how they can be educated so that they try to avoid doing tasks or actions that may trigger an episode of pain.
Psychological and educational treatments are important because they help focus on the psychological effects of the pain and treat the person as a whole, not just someone who needs mediation or pharmological treatments.
Medication is usually prescribed according to the individual patient’s needs, but traditionally anti-depressants may be used in conjunction with analgesics/painkillers, which are often quite potent and if they are opiate based, they may have some undesirable side effects, hence why medication alone is not usually sufficient to help solve the problem of neuropathic pain.
Acupuncture is often used to help patients with neuropathic pain, but this is not always successful. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation can also be used, which is known as TENS can also assist patients. Percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (PENS) can provide relief also and sometimes this can be used in conjunction with acupuncture.
However, underlying all the various treatment options is the need to ensure that different types of pain management techniques are used, to provide a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach to the management of neuropathic pain.