If you experience symptoms of chronic neuropathic pain, you’re not alone. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, nearly 16 million Americans have it. The National Alliance on Mental Illness says that anxiety is far more common, affecting more than 40 million U.S. adults. Like so many other conditions, both can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender.
What is Chronic Neuropathic Pain?
Neuropathic, or nerve, pain can occur when your nervous system is hurt or not working correctly. This results in pain sensations from one of the levels of your nervous system – the spinal cord, the peripheral nerves, or the brain. The spinal cord and brain make up the central nervous system. Peripheral nerves are those spreading throughout the remainder of your body to places like the arms, legs, organs, fingers, and toes. The pain becomes chronic when it lasts for more than six months.
What Causes It?
Diseases that can trigger neuropathic pain:
- Facial nerve troubles.
- Human immunodeficiency virus or AIDS.
- Central nervous system ailments like stroke, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, etc.
- Complex regional pain syndrome.
- Shingles and their after-pain, called postherpetic neuralgia.
- Medicine used for chemotherapy, like cisplatin, paclitaxel, or vincristine.
- Radiation therapy.
- Amputation, resulting in phantom pain.
- Spinal nerve inflammation or compression.
- Trauma injuries or surgeries with subsequent nerve damage.
- Nerve compression or penetration by tumors.
Know the Symptoms
Everyone reacts to pain differently and may treat it as such. You and your healthcare provider may decide ketamine therapy is the best way to reduce the pain, but you should first recognize the symptoms before that happens.
Symptoms may include:
- Gradual beginning of numbness
- Enhanced sensitivity to touch
- Pain when doing something that shouldn’t trigger pain
- Loss of coordination and falling
- Muscle weakness
- Feeling like you’re wearing socks or gloves when you’re not
Chronic Neuropathic Pain & Anxiety
Many people who suffer from chronic nerve pain and other pain syndromes also show evidence of experiencing a dangerous mix of anxiety, depression, and other physical pain. Almost 65 percent of people asking for help for depression also say they’re experiencing at least one kind of pain symptom. One conclusion is that psychiatric disorders add to pain severity and a greater chance of disability.
“Researchers once thought the reciprocal relationship between pain, anxiety, and depression resulted mainly from psychological rather than biological factors. Chronic pain is depressing, and likewise, major depression may feel physically painful. But as researchers have learned more about how the brain works and how the nervous system interacts with other parts of the body, they have discovered that pain shares some biological mechanisms with anxiety and depression.”
Pain creates an emotional response in all of us. If you experience pain, you may also suffer from high and low moods and other symptoms of mental illness. But these are typical human feelings when you’re experiencing pain. And as the pain dissipates, so do stress responses like anxiety. However, the difference with chronic pain is that you can feel bombarded by constant tension and stress, creating a circle of discomfort that never seems to end.
Research illuminates that people under perpetual stress suffer from lowered or damaged cognitive brain functions, like lowered IQ, making the pain more pronounced than before. “More pain, more stress. More stress, more pain.” It can be a hard cycle to break, especially for someone with chronic neuropathic pain or anything else resulting in debilitating pain.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Chronic neuropathic pain and anxiety can only be properly treated once they’ve been diagnosed. In the case of chronic nerve pain, that means undergoing a physical examination and detailing personal and family medical history. No single test can diagnose chronic neuropathic pain, but some may identify specific problems causing pain symptoms. In the case of anxiety, your medical professional will tell you that most symptoms go away on their own. Still, if they don’t and linger for months while harming your quality of life, then you may be suffering from a more serious anxiety disorder. Treatment for either will likely involve different therapy, medicine, or ketamine.
If you have chronic neuropathic pain or anxiety, what are you going to do? The worst course of action is giving in and letting them control your life. Once identified, both conditions can be treated even though recovery may be a life-long commitment. Talk to your healthcare provider today and ask if ketamine is suitable for either one.