Neuralgia is a term used to describe the set of symptoms associated with nerve dysfunction. In terms of the spine, it means pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness caused by compression of a nerve root or irritation of the spinal cord. Compression or irritation can occur either due to traumatic injury, or (more frequently) over time as part of the aging process.
Classification of the types of neuralgia
The term neuralgia, while not necessarily familiar, covers a wide variety of pain and other symptoms that millions of Americans experience every day. There are many types of neuralgia, but they all share one common characteristic: some form of nerve dysfunction is present. Here are a few examples of the different classifications of neuralgia, with brief descriptions of associated symptoms and causes:
- Occipital – pain and other symptoms that spread through the neck and head; caused by dysfunction of the occipital nerves, which run from the base of the neck to the scalp.
- Postherpetic – chronic pain where a shingles infection once occurred; often occurs in people older than 60 as a resurfacing of the virus that causes chickenpox.
- Trigeminal – painful swelling and electric shock-like spasms on the face, especially around the eye; may be triggered by touch or by sounds as a result of trigeminal nerve dysfunction.
- Glossopharyngeal – severe pain in the tongue, throat, ear and tonsils; occurs as a result of irritation of the ninth cranial nerve.
- Sciatic – shooting pain in the lower back, buttocks, legs, feet and/or toes; occurs as a result of compression of the sciatic nerve, the longest and widest nerve in the body.
Treatment for neuralgia
Different types of neuralgia require different kinds of treatment, but in general, the symptoms can be managed using conservative methods of treatment such as pain medication, exercise, epidural injections, and others. However, if chronic symptoms persist despite weeks of conservative treatment, surgery may become an option. If so, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure performed using advanced technology may be able to help you free yourself from back or neck pain.