Neuropathic pain

Neuropathic pain means that your nerves are sending pain messages to the brain. It is diagnosed mainly from a physical examination and a detailed discussion with your healthcare practitioner about how the pain started and its pattern. Usually tests such as x-rays and MRIs do not help to diagnose neuropathic pain.

Allodynia and hyperalgesia are two common terms that you might hear in connection with neuropathic pain.

  • Allodynia is a painful response to a stimulus that is normally not painful, for example clothes brushing against your skin.

  • Hyperalgesia is an unusually high amount of pain in response to a painful stimulus, for example feeling extreme pain after a pinprick.

Examples of neuropathic pain

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS): CRPS is an unusual form of neuropathic pain usually affecting upper and/or lower limbs. The affected limb is very tender and commonly has changes in colour, warmth, movement and strength. CRPS may occur after injury or surgery or there may be no obvious cause.

Phantom limb pain: Phantom limb pain is described as painful sensations in an area of the body that has been removed (for example through amputation) or is missing (for example due to a birth defect). The cause of phantom limb pain is unclear but it is likely due to rewiring of the nervous system. Risk factors include: infection or blood clot in the affected limb, pre-amputation pain, and traumatic amputation such as the result of an accident.

Peripheral neuropathy: Results from damage to peripheral nerves, those in the hands and feet. Causes include cancer treatment, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, certain medications, infections and trauma or pressure on the nerve. These can lead to symptoms of numbness, weakness and pain.

See your healthcare provider if there is a change in your neuropathic pain symptoms.

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