Nerve Pain: What You Need to Know
Understanding Nerve Pain
Nerve pain, also known as neuropathic pain or neuralgia, originates from damage or disease affecting the body’s nervous system. Unlike typical pain arising from injury, nerve pain involves issues with nerve signal transmission.
Causes of Nerve Pain
The nerves themselves are at fault, sending incorrect pain messages to the brain.
Nerve Pain Symptoms
People often describe nerve pain as burning, stabbing, shooting, aching, or like an electric shock.
Various conditions can lead to nerve pain. Familiar causes include:
- Pinched Nerve
- Shingles (post-herpetic neuralgia)
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Phantom limb pain following an amputation
- Multiple sclerosis
- Side-effects from chemotherapy
- HIV infection
- Other nerve-related disorders
Nerve and Nociceptive Pain: The Differences
You can experience both nerve and nociceptive pain concurrently, and they may stem from the same condition.
Traditional painkillers like paracetamol and anti-inflammatories are less effective for nerve pain. Anti-depressants or anti-epileptic medication often prove more useful. Always consult your doctor for tailored advice.
What is Pain?
Pain informs you that something is wrong! Your body sends a warning to your brain through pain, which acts as a built-in alarm. An electrical pathway is provided by your spinal cord and peripheral nerves, allowing nerve messages to travel between your brain and other parts of your body. Your brain interprets pain as electrical signals that travel along these nerve pathways.
Receptor nerve cells beneath and in your skin sense various sensations, including heat, cold, light, touch, pressure, and pain.
Most of these cells dedicate themselves to sensing pain. When there is an injury to your body, tiny cells send messages along nerves and the spinal cord to your brain.
Nociceptors respond to injury or noxious stimuli and sense various stimuli, including thermal (heat), electrical, mechanical, chemical, and painful stimuli. Each nociceptor connects to a nerve that transmits an electrical impulse towards the spinal cord and, ultimately, your brain. Pain receptors are generally classified based on their location.
Your brain is responsible for informing you whether you are experiencing pain. Additionally, chronic pain can sometimes play tricks on you.
Transmission of Pain and Nerve Categorisation
Pain messages tend to travel slower compared to other nerve stimulations. The transmission of pain involves three types of nerves: nerves can be categorised based on their diameter and the presence of a myelin sheath.
- A-beta fibres: These fibres have a large diameter and are myelinated.
- A-delta fibres: These fibres have a small diameter and are also myelinated.
- C fibres: These have small diameters, are non-myelinated (which slows their conduction rate), and are generally involved in transmitting dull, aching sensations.
Nerves with larger diameters conduct impulses faster than those with smaller diameters. The presence of a myelin sheath also speeds up the nerve conduction rate.
One method to alleviate pain is by providing your nervous system with high-speed "good feelings," such as rubbing the injured area. This principle is utilised by a tens machine, a pain-relieving device, that may provide pain relief.