What’s The Difference Between Neuralgia & Neuropathic Pain?

If you experience shooting or burning pain anywhere in your body and it’s started affecting your quality of life, you may be experiencing warning signs of neuropathic pain. Understanding different kinds of pain and what causes them may help diagnose your condition and utilize effective treatment.

What Are the Different Kinds Of Pain?

There are many kinds of pain: Acute, chronic, neuropathic, musculoskeletal, and cancer pain. 

  • Acute pain starts abruptly, and the sensation is usually sharp. It’s basically a warning that you’re under threat of disease or injury. It might be caused by many circumstances, such as traumatic pain from a broken bone, cut, burn, or surgery.
  • Cancer pain. The illness itself and the side effects of treatment can sometimes trigger pain. If you have cancer, you may experience acute pain, chronic pain, musculoskeletal pain, neuropathic pain, or any combination thereof.
  • Chronic pain is any pain lasting more than three months and happens even after an initial injury or illness has passed. 
  • Musculoskeletal pain affects the bones, ligaments, muscles, nerves, and tendons. It may be acute or chronic and can appear in one area or all over your body.
  • Neuropathic pain, like diabetic neuropathy, sciatic pain, or trigeminal nerve pain.

Neuralgia & Neuropathic Pain: One & the same

Neuralgia and neuropathic pain are often called nerve pain. According to experts at UC Davis Health, this happens when there’s damage to your peripheral nervous system. If you have any of the symptoms of nerve pain, you may also hear your healthcare provider call it neuropathy, or nerve damage. Peripheral nerves are essential for sending sensory information from different parts of your body back to the peripheral nervous system, telling your brain or spinal cord, for instance, that your feet are cold. Peripheral nerves also work with muscles to help you move, but damage can disrupt such basic functions.

Symptoms may include:

  • Gradual onset of numbness, prickling, or tingling in your feet or hands, which can spread upward into your legs and arms
  • Sharp, jabbing, throbbing, or burning pain
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch
  • Pain during activities that shouldn’t cause pain, such as pain in your feet when putting weight on them or when they’re under a blanket
  • Lack of coordination and falling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Feeling as if you’re wearing gloves or socks when you’re not
  • Paralysis if motor nerves are affected

What causes neuralgia or neuropathic pain?

Neuralgia or neuropathic pain can be caused by many things, including:

  • Physical injuries
  • Alcoholism
  • Diabetes
  • Facial nerve difficulties
  • HIV infection or AIDS
  • Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and other central nervous system disorders
  • Complex regional pain syndrome
  • Shingles or skin rashes, which can be painful and last for months
  • Chemotherapy drugs like cisplatin, paclitaxel, vincristine, and others.
  • Radiation therapy
  • Amputation, sometimes resulting in phantom pain
  • Inflammation or spinal nerve compression
  • Trauma or surgeries
  • Nerve compression
  • Tumors because of cancer

Risk factors of neuropathic pain include:

  • Diabetes, especially in cases where sugar levels aren’t controlled properly
  • Alcohol misuse
  • Vitamin deficiencies, particularly B6 and B12 vitamins
  • Infections, including Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis B and C, HIV, Lyme disease, and shingles
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other autoimmune diseases where your  immune system assaults your own tissues
  • Kidney, liver, or thyroid disorders
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Certain jobs requiring frequent, repetitive motion 

Finally, there could be instances of neuropathy in your family, especially among blood relatives like parents or siblings.

Nerve pain is a significant problem in the United States, with different causes and overlapping symptoms making it difficult to diagnose and treat. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, it’s estimated that one in every 30 adults over the age of 30 experiences nerve pain, or about 16 million people, including children.

Diagnosis & Treatment

If you have neuralgia or neuropathic pain symptoms, your healthcare provider will ask about your personal and family medical history and perform a physical exam. The examination aims to recognize and isolate your symptoms and uncover the source of your pain. Finding and tracing the cause of nerve pain is complex and may include certain tests, like blood tests, imaging tests, nerve function tests, and nerve or skin biopsies.

Treatment may include therapy, surgery, pain relievers, antidepressants, and other varieties of medicine. In some cases, depending on your health, symptoms, and other factors, your healthcare provider may recommend innovative ketamine infusion therapy, available through specialty clinics nationwide.

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