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Neuropathic (nerve) pain comes from nerve damage, as a result of a variety of illnesses and injuries.

Nerve pain may be felt in the body spontaneously or in response to external stimuli. It may be a continuous ache or come in sharp bursts that feel like an electric shock (for example, sciatica). Other common symptoms include burning or coldness, ‘pins and needles’, numbness and itching. Nerve pain can be difficult to treat, but some pain-relievers and medications used for depression and epilepsy have proved useful.


What causes nerve pain?


Nerve pain has many different causes, including direct nerve injury, Morton’s neuroma, carpal tunnel syndrome (pressure on a major nerve in the wrist), illnesses such as shingles, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and other metabolic conditions, and some types of stroke and/or spinal cord injury.

Nerve pain is also common in cancer as a direct result of pressure or inflitration on one or more nerves by a tumour, or as a side effect of chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery.

Less common causes are nutritional deficiencies, toxins, genetic factors and some auto-immune disorders.


What is the treatment?

Mild or sporadic nerve pain may respond to over-the-counter pain relievers. If the pain is felt in a specific area (such as the area of a shingles rash), a topical cream containing capsaicin 0.075% may help. Carpal tunnel syndrome may require a night splint, cortisone injection or if more persistent, surgery on the wrist – this is not a major operation, but you will not be able to use the affected hand for two to three weeks.

If your pain is more severe and/or chronic (persistent), your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant or anticonvulsant medication, which work differently in nerve pain than they do in depression or epilepsy.

Opioid analgesics such as codeine and tramadol are recognised as useful for pain relief but are not recommended as first-line treatments.

Chronic facial nerve pain is sometimes treated with Botox, which can provide pain relief for several weeks after the injection. As always, don’t put up with persistent pain – see your doctor.




More information


International Association for the Study of Pain

Leads to many useful sites- Resources General Public

American Academy of Orofacial Pain

American Chronic Pain Association

American Headache Society

Trigeminal Neuralgia Association UK



Any medical information in this website is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, it is of a general nature only.  Please consult with a health care professional if you have a specific problem. 


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