LOCALISED NEUROPATHIC PAIN
WHAT IS LOCALISED NEUROPATHIC PAIN?
When a nerve is damaged, this can disrupt the function of nerves in the body, spinal cord or brain. As a result, signals from the nerve may be sent incorrectly or become exaggerated.1,2 Various diseases or conditions can cause nerve damage.1
The pain caused by nerve damage is called neuropathic pain (sometimes referred to as nerve pain).1 Although it can affect the entire body or large areas of the body, nerve damage is often restricted to a smaller, more localised area.1 About 60% of neuropathic pain cases are localised to a specific area, in which case it is called localised neuropathic pain (LNP).3
WHAT CAUSES LOCALISED NEUROPATHIC PAIN?
Infections and surgeries can cause localised nerve damage that, in turn, causes long-term or chronic pain. Some causes of LNP are nerve damage:3
- after herpes zoster (shingles) infection (post-herpetic neuralgia)
- after other infections, for example human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
- after surgery (post-surgical neuropathic pain)
- resulting from diabetes (painful diabetic polyneuropathy)
- from cancer or the chemotherapy used to treat various types of cancer
- from trauma and/or injuries
WHAT ARE TYPICAL SYMPTOMS OF LOCALISED NEUROPATHIC PAIN?
People with LNP often describe the symptoms as ‘shooting pain’, ‘burning pain’, ‘stabbing pain’ or feeling like ‘pins and needles’ and ‘tingling’. People with LNP often have very sensitive skin, comparable to a bad sunburn, and state that normally non-painful stimuli, such as light touches or clothing, are often painful – this is called allodynia.
In addition, pain stimuli that normally cause mild to moderate pain may cause more severe pain – this is called hyperalgesia. Alternatively, pain stimuli that would normally cause severe pain may be less painful – this is called hypoalgesia.2
HOW IS LOCALISED NEUROPATHIC PAIN DIAGNOSED?
To have a diagnosis of LNP, the signs and symptoms must be present in a clearly identified and defined area.3 The diagnosis of LNP relies on a careful examination. Pain questionnaires can be extremely useful for recording the symptoms prior to or during a consultation with a doctor.2 Therefore, it is important that people describe their symptoms in as much detail as possible to their doctor.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If you have pain that has lasted for more than 3 months, please fill out the My Pain Questionnaire and make an appointment to see a doctor. The My Pain Questionnaire is a useful tool to help with communicating pain more effectively with a doctor and supports them in making an accurate diagnosis of the cause of chronic pain. It will help with describing chronic pain, where it occurs on the body and if it is triggered by anything in particular. Once completed online, print out the results the questionnaire and discuss them with a doctor.
In addition, the Pain Diary to help document and keep track of a person’s pain condition; how they feel each day, whether they are coping, their current level of pain and any side effects of treatment(s) prescribed/recommended.
It is also important to be realistic about the expectations of any treatment. Although most would like to completely eliminate their pain, reducing pain to a level that is manageable to enable a person to (re-)start activities that will lead a fulfilling life is perhaps a more achievable goal for many patients.