Neuropathic Pain Resources and Clinical Trials on Neuropathic Pain
Neuropathic pain is chronic pain that results from dysfunction or a lesion in the nervous system. In total it is estimated that 2-5 % of the population in Canada are affected by this type of pain.
Normally, pain occurs as a natural product of injury to our bodies. We twist our ankle and it hurts for a few days. Or we break a bone and feel the effects while it heals. Generally, as healing progresses, the pain surrounding the injury becomes less severe until it eventually fades entirely.
Unfortunately, many people will experience ongoing pain where there is no obvious injury or will continue to experience pain at the site of an injury long after it has healed. In these cases of neuropathic pain, the nervous system is not performing its proper function of alerting the individual to an injury, but is malfunctioning and sounding an alarm where none is needed. Thus, the nervous system itself becomes the cause of the pain.
Some of the most common reasons for neuropathic pain include pain associated with diabetes - called peripheral diabetic neuropathy, pain that arises after an episode of shingles (post-herpetic neuralgia), phantom limb pain after amputation and pain that persists after severe trauma or surgery such as mastectomy.
Other types of neuropathic pain can result from infections, metabolic abnormalities, chemotherapy, radiation, neurotoxins, inherited neurodegeneration, nerve compression, inflammation, or tumor infiltration.
Unfortunately, neuropathic pain does not respond well to common pain relieving medications such as analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents. Some medications such as antiepileptic drugs have shown positive results in treating neuropathic pain. In fact, gabapentin and more recently pregabalin have been approved for use on some forms of neuropathic pain.
Some studies have also shown the older antidepressant medications called tricyclic antidepressants have been effective in treating neuropathic pain. Unfortunately, these drugs can have fairly unpleasant side effects for an often minor benefit. Physical rehabilitation, behaviour therapy and relaxation training can also help, but the magic bullet has not yet been found.