Neuropathic Pain



In some people, the cause of nerve pain is not known. In others, it may be caused by things like:

  • Trauma
  • Chemicals
  • The nerve not getting the nutrients needed to work
  • Infection, such as HIV
  • The body's immune system attacking the nerves

Risk Factors

Health problems that may raise the risk are:

  • Diabetes
  • Poor glucose tolerance
  • Shingles
  • HIV infection
  • Amputation
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Lack of vitamins
  • Spinal cord problem or injury
  • Cancer
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Health problems that are present at birth
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Multiple myeloma

Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Back surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Being around toxins or metals
  • Taking certain medicines



The pain may be all the time or may come and go during the day. A person may feel:

  • Burning
  • Stabbing
  • Electrical shock
  • Pins and needles
  • Numbness


The doctor will ask about symptoms past health. Questions will also be asked about what the pain is like and when it happens. A physical exam will be done. A doctor who treats the nervous system will be needed.

Tests that may be done are:

  • Blood tests to look for problems that may be causing the pain, such as a lack of certain vitamins and minerals
  • Nerve conduction tests to find out how well nerves are passing electrical signals
  • Electromyography (EMG) to measure the electrical activity in the nerves
  • A tissue biopsy to look for problems that may be causing pain



Any underlying problems will need to be treated, such as diabetes.

The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. Options are:


One or more of these medicines may be given to manage pain:

  • Over the counter or prescription pain relievers
  • Antiseizure medicine
  • Antidepressants
  • Topical creams put on the skin or patches, such as capsaicin cream

Some states allow residents to use medical marijuana for health problems. It may be helpful for people with neuropathic pain related to HIV.


Nerve decompression surgery may be advised to ease pain. Other procedures that may be done are:

  • A nerve block—an anesthetic is injected into the painful site to block pain
  • Pain pump—a pain pump is placed in the body to deliver pain medicine
  • Nerve stimulators—a device is attached to the nerve to deliver electrical signals to control pain
  • Surgery may be done to block the hurt nerves from sending signals.


The risk of neuropathic pain may be lowered by managing other health problems, such as diabetes.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.