Do you ever experience pain that feels almost electric? A sharp stabbing, shooting, or even burning sensation can be signs that you’re experiencing nerve pain. Unlike other types of pain, like from a broken bone or a burned finger, it can be difficult and confusing to locate and really understand nerve pain. Many people live, day in and day out, suffering from nerve pain because they don’t know the cause, symptoms, or treatment options. All they know is that they’re in pain.
If you think you may be suffering from nerve pain—chronic pain that simply will not go away—consider consulting a medical professional. The first step towards treatment is understanding your condition and getting the right information. When visiting your doctor, it can be helpful to know what questions to ask. Nerve pain can be hard to diagnose because it’s felt in so many ways, from burning to even a freezing sensation. That’s why it can be helpful to know which questions to ask your doctor when discussing the possibility of nerve pain and nerve pain treatment options. Knowing more will set you down the path toward possible recovery. Here’s a list of 5 questions to ask your doctor about nerve pain.
QUESTION 1: WHAT’S THE CAUSE OF NERVE PAIN
When you stub your toe while walking and feel a sharp, shooting pain climb up your leg, it’s easy to identify the source of the pain. But with nerve pain, it’s often to determine why you’re feeling such intense pain. The reason for this is because nerve pain is a symptom of damage to the nerves themselves. For example, carpal tunnel, that sharp pain in the wrist you might experience after a long day of typing, is caused by pressure on the median nerve that runs through your forearms and down the wrist. Therefore, the pain felt as a result of carpal tunnel is not so much a response to some external pain source or stimuli, but rather, the actual nerves suffering from pressure or damage.
QUESTION 2: IS NERVE PAIN A SIGN OF DIABETES?
In 2018, it was reported that roughly 10% of the American population suffers from diabetes—this accounts for 34 million individuals. Diabetes is one of the most prevalent diseases in the United States and nerve pain is one of the most common symptoms. Even those with prediabetes, which accounts for another 88 million Americans, often suffer from nerve pain. While nerve pain can be an early sign of diabetes, it does not always mean that you will develop this disease. Nerve pain can develop from many different causes. It’s important to consult a medical professional to determine the cause of your nerve pain; therefore, you can seek out the most effective method of treatment.
QUESTION 3: WHAT FORMS OF TESTING ARE AVAILABLE?
When determining if you are suffering from nerve pain, it’s recommended to start with your primary care doctor. From there, however, you may be referred to a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in the nervous system. Often, the first test is simple blood work that vitamin and hemoglobin levels. This testing can help determine if your nerve pain is caused by diabetes. If additional testing is needed, it can take several forms. An EMG, or electromyogram, is used to test for the cause of nerve pain because it can scan your peripheral nerves to determine the source of the pain. Additionally, one of the advantages of seeking out specialized help is that their experience can help you avoid unnecessary testing. No one likes visiting the doctor, so knowing the right questions to ask and who to ask is important to expedite the process—not to mention, it can help you save on expensive medical costs.
QUESTION 4: CAN MEDICATION HELP?
With most pain, simply taking a common painkiller, like ibuprofen, can relieve your discomfort. However, nerve pain, as a much more severe form of chronic pain, often is not treatable with common, over-the-counter medications. Some people, then, choose to seek out other medication options. There are several medications available to treat nerve pain, including duloxetine, amitriptyline, and pregabalin. There are also medication options that can work to relieve pain at specific sites. Capsaicin cream, for example, can be rubbed onto the source of pain and offer relief. As with any medication, it is important to consult your doctor before considering or taking any medication.
QUESTION 5: HOW DOES MY LIFESTYLE AFFECT NERVE PAIN?
While some medication treatments are available, changes in lifestyle and habits have also been shown to reduce nerve pain. Improving your sleep, diet, and amount of exercise can help alleviate nerve pain (not to mention lead to better overall health). Lesser known strategies include cutting back on smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. Keeping moderation in mind, or quitting these habits entirely, can alleviate your nerve pain. For nerve pain brought on by diabetes specifically, it’s important to properly manage your lifestyle and diet. Keeping an eye on your carb intake, exercising regularly, and sticking to a healthy diet can make a major difference.
If you believe you may be suffering from nerve pain, don’t wait any longer to seek help. No one should live with constant pain when there are treatment options available and medical professionals who can help. Nerve pain can be a difficult type of pain to understand because it’s caused by a variety of conditions and can be experienced in many different forms. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t start the conversation with your doctor today to learn more about what may be causing your nerve pain and how it could be treated.