Living with nerve pain can be a long-term proposition. Some neuropathic pain gets better with treatment or on its own, but that can take months or years. Other nerve pain stays the same for years or worsens slowly. Some nerve pain can't be reversed.
Your doctor can help you identify and treat neuropathic pain with the best available therapies. But there are also plenty of things you can do on your own to take care of pain.
As with other subjective experiences, such as love, fear, or anger, there's no way to objectively measure pain. We asked Sean Mackey, MD, PhD, chief of the Pain Management Division and associate professor of anesthesia at Stanford University School of Medicine, to explain the unpleasant sensation we all feel in different ways.
Neuropathic pain comes from nerve damage. Most commonly, this is caused by medical conditions such as diabetes, side effects from drugs or chemotherapy, or injuries.
Damaged nerves are more likely to misfire, sending pain signals when there is no cause for pain. They can also put you at risk for more serious problems such as foot infections.
All the causes of nerve pain are still largely a medical mystery. Researchers have identified several different ways nerves can misfire, and this has led to treatments that help many people.
Still, in surveys of people with nerve pain, most say they still have pain despite the best efforts of doctors. If you're one of them, you may want to look beyond conventional medicine for relief. Almost half of those with nerve pain report trying complementary or alternative approaches to improve their pain.
Strategies for Easing Nerve Pain
In addition to relieving pain, many self-care and home treatments can help prevent more serious problems and protect overall health. Some of these strategies may even trigger the body's natural painkillers, having the added benefit of making you feel good.
Walk it off.Exercise releases natural painkillers called endorphins. Exercise also promotes blood flow to the nerves in the legs and feet. Researchers believe that regular exercise may create a long-lasting expansion in blood vessels in the feet, nourishing damaged nerves back to health. Start with a daily walk, gradually increasing pace and distance.