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Neuropathy & Neuralgia

While both neuropathy and neuralgia involve nerve damage, they differ in symptoms and causes. Neuropathy encompasses general diseases or dysfunctions of the nerves, while neuralgia involves severe pain that is specific to the path of a damaged nerve and that can be triggered by mild stimulation of the area.

Neuropathy and neuralgia are complex conditions that can have a profound impact on your life. Our team of experienced healthcare professionals at Pro Spine & Pain utilizes various diagnostic tools in the treatment of neuropathy and neuralgia to manage these conditions effectively. Find your neuralgia and neuropathy doctor at one of our five locations throughout Wisconsin.


NeuropathyNeuropathy encompasses conditions resulting in nerve damage, leading to symptoms like numbness, including facial numbness, muscle weakness, and nerve pain that can affect daily life. Also known as peripheral neuropathy, it involves the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, crucial for transmitting information throughout the body. Damage to these nerves can cause various sensations and is progressive without treatment. Early diagnosis and intervention are vital to managing neuropathy effectively and preventing complications. Over 20 million Americans are estimated to have peripheral neuropathy, and it is more common in older individuals.

Causes of Neuropathy

Neuropathy can have various causes, and effective pain management is essential for patient recovery.

Common factors contributing to neuropathy include:

  • Diabetes: High blood sugar levels can gradually damage nerves, particularly in the legs and feet, leading to diabetic neuropathy.
  • Autoimmune Diseases: Conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis can trigger inflammation that harms nerves.
  • Infections or Viruses: Certain infections and viruses, such as shingles, Lyme disease, and hepatitis C, have the potential to damage nerves.
  • Vitamin Deficiencies: Insufficient levels of vitamins, especially B12 and E, can result in nerve damage.
  • Alcoholism: Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to nerve damage and exacerbate existing neuropathy.
  • Chemotherapy: Certain medications used in cancer treatment, like chemotherapy drugs, can cause neuropathy.
  • Metabolic Syndrome: Conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol can elevate the risk of neuropathy.

Risk Factors for Neuropathy

Neuropathy affects approximately 20 million people in the United States, with older adults and those with underlying health conditions being the most susceptible demographic.

Risk factors for neuropathy include:

  • Age: Older adults are more vulnerable due to the natural aging process affecting nerves.
  • History of Disease: Individuals with conditions like diabetes, kidney disorders, certain cancers, and autoimmune diseases are at a heightened risk.
  • Lifestyle Choices: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can harm nerves, increasing neuropathy risk.
  • Active Jobs: Physically demanding occupations can also elevate the risk of neuropathy.
  • Toxins: Contact with heavy metals, certain chemicals, and specific medications can lead to nerve damage.

Symptoms of Neuropathy Pain

Neuropathy manifests in a variety of symptoms depending on the nerves involved, and nerve function might be subject to change both at the site of nerve damage and within regions of the central nervous system, a condition known as central sensitization.

Early signs may include:

  • Sensory Nerves: Responsible for transmitting sensory information to the brain. For instance, touching something hot triggers a message to the brain to indicate pain.
  • Motor Nerves: Transmit messages from the brain to the muscles, controlling movement. For example, the brain signals the body to move away from a hot object to prevent injury.
  • Autonomic Nerves: Regulate involuntary bodily functions such as breathing, heart rate, and digestion. For instance, sweating occurs to cool the body in response to heat.

The severity of peripheral neuropathy symptoms varies widely among individuals, ranging from mild numbness or tingling to severe pain, weakness, or interference with daily activities.


NeuralgiaNeuralgia is sharp, shocking pain caused by nerve irritation or damage, significantly affecting quality of life. Trigeminal neuralgia, the most common form, impacts about 12 in every 100,000 people yearly. Neck issues, such as compressed nerves due to spinal misalignment, can trigger trigeminal neuralgia.

Neuritis is another condition that is similar to neuralgia. They are related to nervous system conditions, but they differ in nature. Neuralgia involves severe, shock-like pain along nerve paths, while neuritis is nerve inflammation, often leading to symptoms like numbness, weakness, or sensory changes.

What Are the Different Types of Neuralgia?

There are two main types of neuralgia: postherpetic neuralgia and trigeminal neuralgia.

  • Postherpetic Neuralgia: Causes pain in the skin’s nerves and is a common complication of shingles. This pain can vary from mild to severe and persist for months or even years.
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia: Specifically affects the trigeminal nerve, which originates in the brain and extends into the face, including areas like the nose, mouth, and teeth. Those with trigeminal neuralgia often experience intense stabbing or burning pain, typically on one side of the face.

What Causes Neuralgia?

Various health conditions and external factors can lead to neuralgia.

Common causes include:

  • Diabetes: High blood sugar levels can damage sensory, motor, and autonomic nerves, resulting in symptoms like tingling, burning, and numbness. Foot issues are also common in diabetic neuropathy.
  • Trauma: Physical injuries from accidents, falls, sports mishaps, medical procedures, or fractures can cause significant nerve damage. Compression or stretching of nerves due to injuries leads to pain. Repetitive stress can also compress nerves by causing swelling of ligaments and tendons.
  • Autoimmune Diseases: Autoimmune disorders cause the immune system to mistakenly attack the body, affecting nerves directly or through compression from surrounding tissues.
  • Infections: Viral or bacterial infections such as Lyme disease, herpes, and hepatitis B and C can target nerve tissues, causing neuropathic symptoms like sharp pain. HIV, in particular, can severely damage both central and peripheral nervous systems.
  • Medications and Toxic Substances: Side effects from chemotherapy drugs, radiation, and exposure to toxins like lead, mercury, or strong household cleaners can damage nerves, leading to polyneuropathy.
  • Vascular Problems: Reduced flow in blood vessels and oxygen supply to peripheral nerves can result in nerve tissue damage or cell death, leading to neuropathy.
  • Multiple Sclerosis: This condition damages the protective covering of nerve fibers, potentially causing neuralgia.

Risk Factors for Neuralgia

The type of people most impacted by neuralgia depends on the type of this condition. For instance, trigeminal neuralgia is more prevalent in individuals over 50, with a higher incidence among women. Postherpetic neuralgia typically affects older adults who have had shingles.

Specific factors to consider include:

  • Age: Neuralgia is more frequently observed in older adults, particularly in cases of postherpetic neuralgia.
  • Diseases: Conditions such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis elevate the risk of developing neuralgia.
  • Previous Infections: Individuals with a history of shingles are at an increased risk of postherpetic neuralgia.
  • Family History: Certain types of neuralgia, like trigeminal neuralgia, may have a familial tendency, suggesting a possible genetic predisposition.

Symptoms of Neuralgia

Neuralgia manifests as intense, sharp, and often shock-like pain along the pathway of a nerve.

Symptoms may differ depending on the type and severity of neuralgia, but common indicators include:

  • Sharp Pain: Sudden and severe pain, described as stabbing or shooting, can signal neuralgia.
  • Persistent Aching or Burning: Following the sharp pain, some individuals may experience a continuous ache or burning sensation.
  • Increased Sensitivity: The affected area’s skin may become highly sensitive to touch, causing even light pressure, such as clothing, to be painful.
  • Muscle Weakness: Neuralgia can lead to a decrease in muscle strength in the affected area.

The severity and frequency of these symptoms vary widely among individuals. While some may experience mild, sporadic pain, others may endure severe and continuous discomfort. Additionally, certain triggers, such as light touch or movement, can provoke pain episodes.

Finding a skilled neuralgia doctor is crucial for effective management and treatment. The pain management specialists at Pro Spine & Pain possess a deep understanding of nerve-related disorders and are proficient in utilizing the latest diagnostic tools and treatment methods.

Diagnosing Neuropathy and Neuralgia

At Pro Spine & Pain, we take a comprehensive approach to diagnose conditions such as neuropathy and neuralgia. Our diagnostic process will include a full review of your medical history to assess all the details of your symptoms, including details such as onset, intensity, duration, and factors that worsen or alleviate pain. Your physician may also recommend diagnostic imaging such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans. These tests provide visual insights into affected nerves and surrounding structures, aiding in accurate diagnosis.

In certain cases, there may be nerve conduction studies or electromyography to measure nerve and muscle electrical activity. If applicable, you will be given a diagnostic nerve block via anesthetic injected into specific nerves to assess if they are the pain source. Procedures like facet joint injections, epidural steroid injections, sacroiliac joint injections, and medial branch blocks help pinpoint discomfort causes.

Neuropathy and Neuralgia Treatment

At Pro Spine & Pain, our professional pain management team provide a comprehensive range of treatment for neuropathy and neuralgia tailored to offer effective pain relief.

  • Injection Therapies: These treatments involve delivering medication directly to the affected area to alleviate inflammation and pain associated with neuropathy and neuralgia. Examples include genicular nerve blocks, facet joint injections, medial branch blocks, stellate ganglion blocks, epidural steroid injections, occipital nerve blocks, sacroiliac joint injections, and lumbar sympathetic nerve blocks.
  • Advanced Interventional Procedures: Utilizing cutting-edge technology, these procedures target the root cause of pain. Options such as spinal cord stimulation, balloon compression, intrathecal pain pumps, peripheral nerve stimulation, minimally invasive lumbar decompression (MILD), stereotactic radiosurgery, and radiofrequency ablation are effective neuralgia and neuropathy treatments.
  • Conventional Treatments: We offer traditional approaches to symptom management, including medication management programs, and referrals to physical therapy or surgical procedures, where necessary. These methods help alleviate neuropathic pain and improve strength and mobility.
  • Alternative Therapies: Treatments like acupuncture, IV therapy, and transcranial magnetic stimulation can complement your medical treatment plan.

Please note that the choice of treatment will depend on the specific type of neuropathy or neuralgia you have, its cause, and your overall health condition. A thorough consultation with one of the pain management professionals at our five Wisconsin locations will determine the most appropriate treatment plan.

At Pro Spine & Pain, our dedication lies in delivering thorough and empathetic care to our patients. For treatment for peripheral neuropathy or neuralgia without the need for surgery, contact us today for a personalized treatment philosophy, informed by the latest advancements in research and methodologies.

Updated on Apr 25, 2024 by Dr. Thomas Stauss (Pain Management) of Pro Spine & Pain

Thomas Stauss, MD

Thomas Stauss, MD, completed both his undergraduate and medical studies at the esteemed University of Wisconsin in Madison. Dr. Stauss values having access to a wide array of cutting-edge treatment options, ensuring effective relief for his patients' discomfort and a significant enhancement in their quality of life. More specifically, he specializes in utilizing implanted devices to manage chronic pain. Dr. Stauss’s primary objective is to uphold the dignity of each patient while delivering ethical and professional services.

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