Diagnosing and Treating Nerve Pain
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NarratorIt's believed that over 20 million Americans suffer from some form of damage to their nerves, or neuropathy. For the afflicted, pain, tingling or numbness often begins in the hands or feet.
Gregory Esper, MD, MBAI would say that a person should be concerned if a certain type of numbness, tingling or pain is not going away, certainly after 24 to 48 hours.
NarratorThough it is the nerves which ultimately sense pain—it must first be determined whether the cause of the agony is actually originating in the nerves themselves…
Gregory Esper, MD, MBAWe can determine pretty well: is the pain from nerves? Is the pain coming from a joint, like knee pain? Is the pain coming from the muscles? Is the pain coming from the brain or the spinal cord? A very important question.
NarratorNeurologists, like Emory's Gregory Esper make that determination first by studying a patient's medical history, and then by conducting a thorough physical exam
Gregory Esper, MD, MBAIn neurology we localize the pain first and then we try to identify what is the cause of that pain.
: Just Relax
NarratorState-of-the-art tests like Electro Myography, nerve conduction studies and nerve or skin biopsies may corroborate or refute a doctor's initial suspicions that the pain is in fact caused by damaged nerve cells.
: Deep breathes in and out—relax
NarratorHowever, care must be taken to ensure a proper reading; In inexperienced or inept hands, such data has sometimes led to misdiagnosis.
Gregory Esper, MD, MBAWe have to make sure that a very technical test is done appropriately and well because the diagnosis and treatment depends on it.
NarratorAlleviating the hurt is often the first step in healing: A battery of therapies is available to treat pain including, physical therapy, bio-feedback and acupuncture. And medicines from over-the-counter topicals to prescription drugs have been used to help with nerve pain once it's diagnosed—but…
Gregory Esper, MD, MBAUltimately when you have a cause that's identified, you want to treat the cause not just treat the symptoms with medication.
NarratorThere can be any number of causes of neuropathy from trauma to chronic illnesses. But oftentimes adopting healthier habits can directly impact the root cause of nerve pain. In fact, common triggers of nerve pain like uncontrolled diabetes, vitamin deficiencies and alcoholism can all be improved to some degree with lifestyle changes. When severe nerve pain gets in the way of healthy behavior, however, aggressive therapy is the rule.
Gregory Esper, MD, MBAIt often is required of the physician to recognize it and treat the pain so that the person can become more active and live the lifestyle that is going to make them better in the long run.
NarratorFor WebMD, I'm Damon Meharg.
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