Neuropathic Pain: Symptoms, and Treatment

What are the symptoms?

Each person’s symptoms of neuropathic pain may vary slightly, but these symptoms are common:

  • shooting, burning, or stabbing pain
  • tingling and numbness, or a “pins and needles” feeling
  • spontaneous pain, or pain that occurs without a trigger
  • evoked pain, or pain that’s caused by events that are typically not painful — such as rubbing against something, being in cold temperatures, or brushing your hair
  • a chronic sensation of feeling unpleasant or abnormal
  • difficulty sleeping or resting
  • emotional problems as a result of chronic pain, loss of sleep, and difficulty expressing how you’re feeling

How’s it treated?

A goal of neuropathic pain treatment is to identify the underlying disease or condition that’s responsible for the pain, and treat it, if possible.

An important goal is that your doctor will aim to provide pain relief, help you maintain typical capabilities despite the pain, and improve your quality of life.

The most common treatments for neuropathic pain include:

Over-the-counter pain medication

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Aleve and Motrin, are sometimes used to treat neuropathic pain.

However, many people find these medicines aren’t effective for neuropathic pain because they don’t target the source of the pain.

Prescription medication

Opioid pain medications don’t usually reduce neuropathic pain as well as they reduce other types of pain. Plus, doctors may hesitate to prescribe them for fear that a person may become dependent.

Topical pain relievers can be used, too. These include lidocaine patches, capsaicin patches, and prescription-strength ointments and creams.

Antidepressant drugs

Antidepressant medications have shown great promise in treating symptoms of neuropathic pain.

Two common types of antidepressant drugs are prescribed to people with this condition:

  • tricyclic antidepressants
  • serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors

These may treat both the pain and symptoms of depression or anxiety caused by chronic pain.