Chronic neuropathic pain is long-term, debilitating pain that last longer than three months and is caused by a nervous system disorder. Some medical professionals place the “chronic” threshold at six months, but the length of time is not as significant as the fact that the pain – which can be constant or episodic – does not go away naturally. Neuropathic pain, whether chronic or acute, is related to the brain, spinal cord or nerves. Disorders within the nervous system can produce dull or intense pain at the location of the injury or infection, as well as sharp or shooting pain along the pathway of the affected nerve. When this kind of pain is produced by spinal nerve compression, the symptoms are considered “radicular.”
Classifications of Chronic Neuropathic Pain
Neuropathic pain might not always have an obvious cause, but it typically is attributed to damage to or dysfunction of the nerves that transmit messages to and from the brain. This damage can arise from traumatic injury, infection or a degenerative disease such as arthritis. Neuropathy is divided into two general classifications:
- Peripheral – this refers to damage to the vast communications network that detects sensory input in every part of the body and relays these messages to the brain. There are more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy, which makes diagnosing the condition extremely difficult. Spinal nerve compression produced by a degenerative condition, such as a herniated disc or bone spurs, falls under this category.
- Central – this refers to damage to or dysfunction of the brain, the brain stem or the spinal cord. This can arise from a stroke, traumatic spinal cord injury or a congenital condition such as multiple sclerosis.
Treating Chronic Neuropathic Pain
Treatment of chronic neuropathic pain generally includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or stronger pain medication. Surgery is not usually indicated for most forms of neuropathic pain, although spinal nerve compression – when treated endoscopically at Laser Spine Institute – does respond well to minimally invasive, outpatient procedures in many cases. Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more, and to receive a free review of an MRI or CT scan.