Depending on the cause and the type of chronic nerve pain a person is experiencing, several different therapy options may be available. A combination of medication and physical therapy is most common. In addition to other forms of treatment, epidural steroid injections, nerve blocks, or even surgery might be recommended in some cases. A pain management specialist, or anesthesiologist, usually treats many types of chronic injuries and neuropathic pain conditions, to help a patient improve his or her quality of life.
For severe chronic nerve pain, opioid medication is commonly prescribed. Due to the risk of addiction, it is usually not recommended for long-term use. There are times, however, when the benefits of opioid therapy outweigh the risk. To minimize the likelihood of addiction, doctors caution patients not to take more than the prescribed amount.
Sometimes, opioid therapy is used in conjunction with other medications. A low dose of antidepressants, or sometimes anti-seizure drugs, can be prescribed as well. The combination of remedies can be helpful to reduce the severity of chronic nerve pain.
Certain individuals who suffer from the condition can benefit from a series of nerve blocks administered by a surgeon who specializes in pain management and anesthesiology. This block is an injection of an anesthetic inserted directly into the nerve causing the chronic pain. The anesthetic numbs the nerve. Many people experience short-term relief following this type of treatment.
An outpatient procedure, a nerve block is generally performed in a surgical setting while the patient is sedated. If the pain is caused by a peripheral nerve to a patient's leg, for example, the numbing agent may be injected into the spine, targeting that particular nerve, to deaden it, so that pain signals are no longer sent to that part of the leg. While relief from one injection is usually not long lasting, some patients experience notable improvement after a few treatments.
Physical therapy is also frequently prescribed for patients suffering from chronic nerve pain. Exercise, massage, hydrotherapy, and the use of a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit may be incorporated into a patient’s treatment plan. Some people also purchase a TENS unit for home use. These patients report that the muscle and nerve stimulation produced by the appliance is effective and aids in relief.
In cases of severe, chronic nerve pain or nerve entrapment, or when other types of treatment are not successful, surgery may be recommended. When a nerve is compressed, it can cause pain, numbness, and reduced mobility. Surgical intervention in such situations may relieve the associated discomfort for patients.