What is Neuropathic Pain?
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Pain is one of our body’s natural reactions that informs us about dysfunctions in our body or about damaging external factors. Acute pain (also described as short-term pain) is generally a warning signal and vital to life, protecting for example against burns, and signaling wounds and infections. Acute pain that is obviously associated with an injury and goes away upon healing usually lasts less than a month. However, when pain continues long after the original injury has been repaired or healed, it is known as chronic pain and this can become a real problem that is very difficult to live with.
Nerve pain is a type of chronic pain that results either from damage to the nerves that normally sense pain or from injury to a part of the nervous system that transmits pain signals, such as the spine or the brain.
This type of pain, known as neuropathic pain, does not have the protective role of acute pain and must be properly diagnosed and treated.
What are the causes of neuropathic pain?
A number of conditions can directly damage nerves and lead to neuropathic pain, such as multiple sclerosis or injury from an accident. Amputation of a limb is another well-known cause of neuropathic pain (phantom limb pain).
Neuropathic pain can also be a relatively common complication of other conditions which are associated with nerves. These conditions include diabetes, shingles or lower back pain. This explains why neuropathic pain may be a more common cause of chronic pain than many people realize.