If no other treatments help nerve pain, explore surgery. Surgery works for some types of nerve pain but not others. Take time to do homework, talk with your doctor, and get a second opinion for a realistic understanding about the surgery's results.
Nerve Surgery Risks
Be cautious before agreeing to surgery for nerve pain. Surgery sometimes works for certain types of nerve pain, such as a pinched nerve caused by a slipped disc. But it's risky and does not work well for some causes of nerve pain.
Carefully research the effectiveness of a suggested surgery. Ask your surgeon for outcomes on patients with problems most like yours. See if your doctor can arrange for you to talk with someone who's had the procedure.
Get a Second Opinion
Before agreeing to any surgery for nerve pain, consider getting a second opinion. Nerve pain is notoriously hard to treat, and surgery has real risks. You should be confident that it's the approach most likely to help. Check your health insurance to see if they will pay for a second opinion.
Some people feel embarrassed to tell their surgeon that they are getting a second opinion. There's no need to be. It's a common practice and experienced surgeons may even suggest that you get one.
If a specific nerve is causing your pain, destroying it surgically could help. In radiofrequency nerve ablation, an electrical current heats up a small area of nerve tissue. This stuns the nerve and reduces pain signals from that area. However, it's often a temporary fix -- the pain can return over time. In most cases, nerve ablation is safe, but it can sometimes damage tissue around the nerve.
If nothing seems to help your nerve pain, a pain pump might work. It's an implanted device that delivers a pain medication or anesthetic to the spinal fluid surrounding your spinal cord. Keep in mind that pain pumps are usually for people with severe nerve pain that hasn't responded to any other treatment.
Doctors sometimes treat nerve pain by injecting an anesthetic directly around the affected nerve. This helps disrupt the transmission of pain signals to the brain. But nerve blocks typically produce short-term pain relief, not long term. Ask your doctor if a nerve block could help you and how often you can safely get them.
Injections of a painkiller and steroid into the area around your spinal cord may help with certain types of hard-to-treat nerve pain. This approach does have rare, but serious, side effects: Bleeding, infection, nerve injury, and meningitis. Research spinal injections carefully, and talk them over with your doctor to get answers to your concerns before you move forward.