They say that nerve pain is some of the worst pain. For anyone that has experienced firsthand, that probably isn’t an exaggeration.
We have millions of nerves all over our body. They work by passing on sensations like
- temperature, and
for the brain to process. While it would be nice to go without the pain, they let us know if we’ve suffered an injury, pierced the skin, broken a toe, or otherwise hurt ourselves. Sometimes, however, this messaging system from the nerves to the brain stops working properly. Instead of only alerting pain caused by an external problem, the nerves start firing off for no particular reason.
While nerve pain doesn’t always have a cure, it can be managed. Here are a few common options to consider1:
This is often the first place most people turn for pain relief. There are many different medications used to treat nerve pain. What you take usually depends on factors like
- where the pain originates,
- the intensity of the pain,
- how often it occurs, and
- your personal preference.
Speak to your doctor to get a good idea of where you should start. As a start, here are different classes of drugs used in the treatment of nerve pain1:
- Anticonvulsants- Don’t let the name scare you! These drugs were originally developed to treat people with epilepsy and help control their seizures. But, it turns out that their effects on the nervous system can also dull pain. They’re often considered as a first choice to relieve nerve pain.
- Antidepressants- As with anticonvulsants, don’t let the name throw you off. These drugs may treat depression, but they are also effective at stopping nerve pain. However, be aware that they may have some unwanted side effects, so speak to your doctor about this before starting them.
- Painkillers- For severe nerve pain, powerful painkillers like opioids may help. These medications are usually used as a last resort and only for a short period of time due to their addictive nature. Opioids work well but must be used with caution.
2- Topical treatments
Some over-the-counter and prescription topical treatments like
- gels, and
can help ease nerve pain. These treatments are rubbed into the skin on the affected area so they tend to work best for pain that is isolated to specific parts of your skin. Topical treatments can also be used with other pain relief options.
3- Electrical stimulation
Electrical stimulation is a pain relief strategy that uses electrical impulses to block the pain messages sent by damaged nerves. One such example is a TENS machine (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). This is a noninvasive, painless device that delivers stimulation through the skin to stop pain before it starts.
4- Complementary treatments
Many people find that alternative approaches like
- meditation, and
can help relieve nerve pain (or at the very least may be used in conjunction with other treatments). Not all complementary therapies are effective, but many of them are at least worth a try!
5- Lifestyle changes
You’ve probably heard it before but making a few changes to your lifestyle like
- eating a healthier diet, and
- quitting smoking
can make underlying medical conditions better. On their own, lifestyle changes won’t provide instant pain relief but little changes over time can make a big difference to your overall health.
6- Supplements and vitamins
In some cases, nerve pain can be worsened—or even caused—by a deficiency of vitamin B121. B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that has a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. If you think you’re B12 deficient, it may be worth visiting your doctor to double check.
Before starting a supplement, always check with your doctor first to make sure it won’t interact with other medications you might be taking.
1- WebMD. Treating Nerve Pain Caused by Cancer, HIV, and Other Conditions. Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 30, 2016. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/treating-nerve-pain-caused-cancer-hiv#1