Nerve pain or neuralgia

Nerve pain is also called neuralgia. It is pain that is felt in the area of a sensory nerve. Sensory nerves are the nerves that transmit pain signals. When damage occurs to this nerve or something presses against the nerve, nerve pain occurs. Nerve pain occurs after surgery or amputation, but also as a result of an implant or other damage. Nerve pain can sometimes be treated effectively, but some people still continue to experience pain.

What are the nerves?

To tell you more about nerve pain, we first need to know what the nerves are. The nerves are located in the peripheral nervous system, not in the central nervous system. These nerves form the connection between the central nervous system and organs or tissues. Nerves consist of many nerve cells. The function of nerves is to transmit electrical stimuli and messages. Messages run from the brain to the muscles and organs, but also from these back to the brain. Nerves also conduct pain.

Nerve pain

Nerve pain is different from feeling pain. Pain is caused by damage to a tissue and organ. The nerves transmit this damage to the brain in the form of pain signals. Nerve pain is the feeling of pain that originates from the nerve itself, without any organ or tissue being damaged. A sensory nerve is damaged. The cause may also be an inflammatory process that presses on the nerve. Nerve pain can sometimes also be translated as scar pain. This is seen after surgery or amputation. The brain remains active while the body part is removed and can no longer produce pain. We often also see nerve pain with an implant in the jaw. There are no obvious changes in the nerve. This also occurs with a spinal cord injury. Many people suffer from nerve pain every year: an average of 14,000 people in the Netherlands alone. Nerve pain can be temporary, but some people suffer from it for a very long time.

Symptoms

Nerve pain is pain that occurs in attacks in the area around a sensory nerve. The pain can be throbbing and aching and last from a few minutes to several days. Then the pain subsides again. Sometimes the pain remains continuous. The pain is demonstrable but often difficult to explain. No clear organ or tissue can be identified from which the pain originates. The pain that is felt sometimes lies a little deeper. Depending on the form of nerve pain, pain is felt in the back, buttock, leg, arm or face. Nerve pain in a molar or tooth is also common. This pain can radiate to other teeth.

Different forms of nerve pain

We have already mentioned some forms of nerve pain, such as amputation (phantom pain) or pain with an implant in the jaw. Nerve pain is common after surgery. Certain operations are much riskier, such as hernia surgery and groin surgery. Lung surgery also causes nerve pain more often. These complaints also sometimes occur during knee surgery. In principle, nerve pain can occur after any operation. Nerve pain usually does not occur immediately after the operation, but only when the body has recovered. Then the period of throbbing and aching or stabbing pain begins. This period can last from several weeks to several years. Nerve pain usually disappears after a few months after surgery. The cause is often due to damage to the nerve during the operation or the brain not yet adapting to the new situation.
Another well-known form of nerve pain is facial pain. This pain can consist of attacks but can also be present continuously. The cause of this may include shingles, damage or overstimulation of a nerve. Nerve pain is more common during a mastectomy due to breast cancer. This occurs in more than half of the women who have undergone this operation. In many cases the complaints disappear again, just like other nerve pain after an operation. But the nerve pain can still persist. Sciatica is also a form of nerve pain. Nerve pain is felt in the back due to pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Chronic nerve pain

If complaints of nerve pain do not disappear, it can become chronic. This is because the nerve becomes hypersensitive. Chronic nerve pain is very difficult to treat. Pain relief can be prescribed. If the complaints persist, the pain nerve can be cut. As a result, pain stimuli are no longer transmitted to the brain. A disadvantage of this is that other stimuli are also switched off. The doctor will always discuss the pros and cons of this treatment with the patient. With symptomatic nerve pain (continuous pain), it is often the underlying cause that needs to be addressed. The cause is usually a growth or inflammation that presses on the nerve. This can be removed, after which the complaints of nerve pain will decrease.

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  • Pain from an implant
  • Pain in the arm
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