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Three Tips for Taking Nerve Pain Medication

  • Watch out for interactions. Before you start taking a new medicine, make sure your doctor knows about every other prescription drug, OTC medicine, supplement, and vitamin you use. You might want to write them all down and bring in the list to your appointment -- or even bring the pill bottles with you instead.
  • Always follow your doctor's instructions for taking a new medicine. Make sure you understand how often you take it, how much you take, what time of day you should take it, and whether you should take it with or without food. Never stop using a prescription medicine without talking to your doctor first.
  • Don't ignore side effects. Talk to your doctor about them. He or she might be able to alter the dose or change the medicine to resolve the problem.

Other Treatments for Nerve Pain

While medications are typically the first choice for neuropathic pain, some other approaches might help too. Here are some nondrug options.

Electrical stimulation. When you feel nerve pain, an electrical signal is being sent from a damaged nerve to your brain.  Some treatments for nerve pain work by sending out their own electrical impulses. These charges seem to interrupt or block the pain signals, reducing the pain you feel.

  • TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) is one example of this approach. A small device sends a mild electric current through your skin. While TENS is simple and painless, the evidence that it helps with nerve pain is mixed. However, recent studies do seem to show that it can help with diabetic nerve pain, so the American Academy of Neurology does recommend it.
  •  PENS (percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation ) -- also called electroacupuncture -- delivers electrical stimulation to the nerves through acupuncture needles. The American Academy of Neurology deems this probably effective in treating diabetic nerve pain, but the treatment is not widely available.
  • rTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation) uses magnets to send electrical impulses into the brain. While evidence is limited, studies suggest that PENS and rTMS may help with nerve pain.

Other methods of electrical stimulation are more complex and require surgery. For instance, spinal cord stimulation involves implanting a device in the body that sends out electrical impulses to the spinal cord. For deep brain stimulation (DBS), a surgeon would implant electrodes in the brain. Generally, doctors only use these invasive approaches when everything else has failed.

Controlling Nerve Pain

Nerve pain can be hard to control. Some studies suggest that many people with nerve pain are not getting sufficient pain relief.

However, that doesn't mean you have to accept a life in pain. Experts believe that many of those people in pain could be helped. It's just that they aren't getting the proper treatment. They might be relying on medications that don't work. Or they might be getting the right drugs at the wrong dose.

So, if you're suffering with nerve pain and treatment isn't helping enough, don't give up hope. Instead, go back to your doctor and come up with a new approach. Or get a referral to an expert -- like a pain specialist or a neurologist.

There are a lot of different ways to tackle nerve pain. If one approach doesn't work, others might. By working with an expert, and being persistent, you can find something that will help.

Understanding Nerve Pain

See the common causes, symptoms, and treatments.
View slideshow