What is neuropathic pain?
Neuropathic pain refers to pain that is being generated from the nervous system.
There are different types of pain; some pain is generated from physical damage to soft tissue (such as when someone sprains an ankle and injures the ligaments).
Neuropathic pain can be much more complex and can occur, for example, when someone’s nervous system still registers pain even after the associated soft tissue injury has physically healed.
If someone has successfully regained strength and balance in that injured ankle, but is still experiencing chronic pain, then there is a chance that pain is linked to changes in the nervous system, either in the periphery or centrally with structural changes to the brain.
What areas of the body can nerve pain occur in?
Nerve pain can occur anywhere in the human body.
What causes nerve pain?
Neuropathic pain is quite complex.
In its simplest form, it is the result of injury to a nerve. This can occur when direct pressure on a nerve causes a bruise or contusion (such as from a fall or a car accident).
A more complex form of neuropathic pain occurs when the pain of an acute injury does not resolve with the associated physical recovery. Instead, the nerve pain remains, creating a more complicated injury that can be harder to understand. Often the nervous system becomes more sensitive to stimuli which did not used to be considered as painful, such as light touch.
Who does neuropathic pain most commonly affect?
Neuropathic pain can affect anyone. Some contributing factors have been identified but essentially it can occur in anyone.
Can someone have neuropathic pain without a physical or neurological condition?
Typically, there is an incident or injury linked to the start of neuropathic pain. This is not exclusively the case, however, and there are other factors that seem to increase someone’s risk of experiencing neuropathic pain.
What is involved in typical rehab for neuropathic pain?
The first step is to complete a comprehensive assessment. Our clinicians will talk through the client’s pain history and experience to gain an understanding of:
- When the pain started
- The nature and behaviour of the pain
- Anything that aggravates or eases the pain
- Interventions or strategies used so far to try to manage the pain
- Any other health professionals currently involved in the management of this pain
From there, we identify meaningful goals that the client wants to achieve.
The clinician will conduct some simple movement assessments to see how the client is able to move and how the pain is impacting them. Then, they will discuss a possible treatment approach for the weeks and months ahead.
In what ways do Occupational Therapists help?
Occupational Therapists can help in many ways, typically through the prescription of equipment or by creating changes to a person’s environment.
Occupational Therapists are also very skilled at helping people living with neuropathic pain in the upper limb. This is a common occurrence after someone has experienced a stroke, and an Occupational Therapist can design an upper limb therapy program to assist with managing that pain.
Is neuropathic pain measurable?
Yes. There are different types of pain assessment measures that are applicable to different populations and these can be used to quantify someone’s level of pain and measure the impact it has on their function.
Can Community Therapy share a success story?
One of our most meaningful cases of overcoming neuropathic pain was when we helped a client who had sustained multiple lower limb fractures in a motor vehicle accident. This person was an older adult and had lived for years with neuropathic pain following the accident. Their mobility and function had returned to near-normal levels, but their pain was still significant.
Our Physiotherapist developed a graded exercise program which was undertaken in conjunction with other chronic pain management strategies such as desensitisation techniques for the skin.
Over the months ahead this person was able to slowly decrease their pain and decrease their dependence on pain medications. The result was a wonderful, positive effect on their quality of life and outlook of life.
Are there specialists in this field?
Pain specialists, as well as specialty pain management clinics, can provide a holistic view of someone’s pain management care.
Typically someone will be referred to a pain specialist or pain management clinic if a general practitioner and allied health professionals have been unable to decrease someone’s pain.
How can I get started with Community Therapy?
Community Therapy is able to assist people with neuropathic pain.