Localised Nerve Pain
What Is Localised Neuropathic Pain?
Various diseases or conditions can cause nerve damage. Although it can affect the entire body, or larger areas of the body, often nerve damage is restricted to a smaller, more localised area. The pain caused by nerve damage is called neuropathic or nerve pain (NP), and it is a long-term or chronic disease that affects many people in Ireland.1 About 60% of neuropathic pain cases are localised to a circumscribed area, in which case it is called localised neuropathic pain (LNP).2
What Causes Localised Neuropathic Pain?
Some causes of LNP are e.g. nerve damage after shingles or herpes zoster infection (postherpetic neuralgia or PHN), nerve damage after surgery (postoperative neuropathic pain or PONP), or nerve damage resulting from diabetes (diabetic polyneuropathy or DPN).
What Are the Typical Localised Neuropathic Pain Symptoms?
Localised neuropathic pain (LNP) can be described by patients as 'shooting pain', 'burning pain', 'stabbing pain', or feeling 'pins and needles'3. LNP patients often have very sensitive skin, and state that normally unpainful 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 in LNP patients. This is called hyperalgesia.
How Is Localised Neuropathic Pain Diagnosed?
To have a diagnosis of localised neuropathic pain (LNP), the signs and symptoms must be present in a clearly identified and defined area. The diagnosis of LNP relies on a careful examination. Pain questionnaires can be extremely useful for recording the symptom profile upfront. It is important that patients describe their symptoms in as much detail as possible to their doctor. The 'mypainfeelslike... questionnaire' is a tool that can help patients to improve the communication with their doctors to help them get to the correct diagnosis and treatment.
What Can You Do?
Do you have pain that is localised to a well-defined area of your skin? Is that area of your skin very sensitive to touch? Does it feel like 'pins and needles' or is the pain a 'burning pain', 'shooting pain', or 'stabbing pain'?
If you have chronic pain that is localised, and you think that it might be LNP, it is important to get active. Please fill out the 'mypainfeelslike... questionnaire' and see your doctor. The questionnaire is a useful tool to facilitate you in communicating more effectively with your doctor, as it can support the doctor in making an accurate diagnosis of the cause of pain. You should try to accurately describe your chronic pain, where it occurs on your body and if it is triggered by anything in particular while you are completing the 'mypainfeelslike... questionnaire'. Once you completed it, print out the results and discuss them with your doctor to diagnose your chronic pain. You can also read more about possible treatment options here.
Other kinds of pain
1. Brevik et al. Survey of chronic pain in Europe: prevalence, impact on daily life, and treatment. Eur J Pain. 2006;10:287–333.
2. Mick G., et al (2012). What is localized neuropathic pain? A first proposal to characterise and define a widely used term. Pain Manage 2(1), 71-77.
3. Woolf C., et al (1999). Neuropathic pain: Aetiology, symptoms, mechanisms, and management. Lancet; 353:1959-64