Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain (sometimes called neuralgia ) occurs when nerve fibers are damaged or do not function properly; the damaged nerve fibers send incorrect signals to pain centers in the brain. This change in nerve function results in a chronic pain state.

Neuropathic pain symptoms may include shooting, stabbing or burning pain or numbness and a tingling sensation. This may affect only one side of your body or both sides. The damaged nerve may be anywhere, but most commonly it is in the face and neck.

Your damaged nerve may be caused by a disease like diabetes or multiple sclerosis , an infection like shingles or HIV , surgery, chemotherapy, injury, substance abuse or as the result of aging. Neuropathies are referred to as “central” when they are caused by problems in the brain or spinal cord.

The causes for some neuropathies cannot be identified.

Diagnosis of Neuropathic Pain
To diagnose neuropathic pain, our team will ask you about your medical history and have you describe your pain, when it occurs and whether anything specific triggers it. We will perform a medical exam and if the pain is in your face, we may recommend a dental exam to determine if problems with your teeth may be the cause. Additional tests may include the following:

  • Blood tests to check blood sugar levels and kidney function
  • An MRI to determine the presence of multiple sclerosis
  • A nerve conduction test to assess possible nerve damage

Treatment Options for Neuropathic Pain
If another underlying condition is the cause of your neuropathy, our team will arrange with the appropriate specialists to treat that condition. If this treatment does not help relieve your pain, we will widen our treatment methods to discover the best choice for managing your situation.

For some types of neuralgia, the treatment methods may include the following:

  • Physical, massage or relaxation therapies
  • Acupuncture
  • Blood sugar regulation (where diabetes is the known cause)
  • Counseling
  • Medications (especially anticonvulsant and antidepressant drugs to effectively control the pain)
  • Surgery to cut or relieve pressure on the nerve
  • Implanting an electrical nerve stimulator


Our physicians at Houston Methodist specialize in managing neuropathic pain at the following convenient locations.