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Help, I May Have Nerve Pain! A Doctor Answers Questions About Neuropathic Pain Causes and Treatment

Written by Mia Dacumos, MD · Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

Updated May 24, 2023

    Help, I May Have Nerve Pain! A Doctor Answers Questions About Neuropathic Pain Causes and Treatment

    People suffer different kinds of pain for many different reasons. For some, the pain may feel like a burning sensation, while others may describe it as a tingling, or electric shock-like. 

    But how do we know if the pain we are experiencing is neuropathic, also known as nerve pain? What are common neuropathic pain causes, and what can we do to treat it? 

    This article shares some insights from Hello Doctor Philippines’ #AskTheExpert interview on neuropathic pain causes, prevention, and treatment.

    In a new episode of #AskTheExpert, we asked neurologist, medical specialist in diagnosis and treatment, and a fellow of Philippine Neurological Association, Dr. Nicole Aliling, to walk us through what neuropathic pain is, neuropathic pain causes, and how to address this condition. 

    Understanding Neuropathic Pain and Neuropathic Pain Causes

    Neuropathic pain can better be understood through its etymology. Neuro refers to the nerves, and pathic denotes the occurrence of a disease or injury. The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) describes neuropathic pain as a type of pain induced by an injury or a disease of the somatosensory nerve system1.

    Dr. Aliling emphasizes that neuropathic pain is different from the acute nociceptive pain that people often experience through a normal somatosensory system.

    “It is distinct from what we usually call nociceptive, iyong madalas na nararamdaman natin kapag ma-pierce ka ng isang pin, o kapag ma-stub mo iyong toe mo,” Dr. Aliling explains. “On the other hand, neuropathic pain is pain that is caused by a disruption or injury.”

    As pain that arises from a disruption or an injury to the somatosensory system2, it causes a problem with nerve cells, which leads to what people commonly describe as “ngalay.”

    When Does a Person Experience Neuropathic Pain?

    Dr. Aliling explained that even day-to-day activities can cause the occurrence of neuropathic pain. Many people may already be experiencing these kinds of sensations, but are not just aware of it. 

    Lifestyle habits are among the neuropathic pain causes that may lead to the condition.

    “Especially now in this pandemic, a lot of us are working from home, so we’re used to sitting in front of a desk, or working on a computer sa mga work from home,she shared during the interview.  

    She also added, “tapos laging nag-tatype, iyon pala mayroon nang nagkakaroon ng compression doon sa daanan ng nerves papunta doon sa kamay. Sometimes we get the condition called carpal tunnel syndrome. Or sometimes, because of how we use our thumbs, we get De Quervain syndrome.”

    “Other than that, how we sit – iyong posture natin – nagkakaroon ng tinatawag na pinched nerves sa leeg or sa likod, which can lead to sciatica or radiculopathy. Those are the more common things that can just occur from our everyday activities.” 

    Furthermore, diseases like diabetes can also result in signs and symptoms of neuropathic pain. Approximately 30% of neuropathy cases involve diabetic people3. Cancer   the disease itself or its treatment can also be a cause of neuropathic pain5.

    How Can Neuropathic Pain Be Diagnosed?

    It may be hard for people to identify what type of pain they are experiencing. But with the help of a doctor’s clinical evaluation and diagnosis, you will be able to tell if you are experiencing neuropathic pain.

    Dr. Aliling shares that there are questionnaires that doctors ask their patients to fill out in order to identify whether they are suffering from neuropathic pain or not. Some may also employ diagnostic tools, such as electrophysiology4 or electrodiagnostic medicine when deemed necessary. Looking into the brain or spinal cord through an MRI scan can also track the source of pain.

    These steps are important to rule out other conditions as well. Dr Aliling encapsulates this thought by saying, “It goes with any type of condition —  the earlier that you are able to nip it in the bud, so to speak, then it’s going to have a better prognosis.”

    Can You Prevent Neuropathic Pain?

    A healthy lifestyle can help prevent the onset of neuropathic pain. Dr. Aliling shares a few things to keep in mind:

    1. Exercise throughout the week (for a total of 150 minutes)

    She suggests that a healthy lifestyle includes any type of activity that makes you move. Exercising for 30 to 45 minutes every other day (or most days of the week) can help you prevent not only the onset of neuropathic pain but also cardiovascular diseases that may lead to neuropathic pain. For example, stroke may lead to neuropathic pain.

    1. Quit smoking

    It’s not anything new that smoking leads to no good at all. Smoking increases the risk of cancer, respiratory diseases, and cardiovascular diseases, among many other conditions.

    1. Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum.

    While Dr. Ailing does not insist on eliminating the occasional alcoholic drink, saying no to alcohol can also mean saying no to the possibility of neuropathic pain.

    Key Takeaways

    Neuropathic pain may eventually end up affecting your lifestyle or even your career. Following this, it is important to learn more about how to address neuropathic pain causes and symptoms.

    If you think you are experiencing nerve pain, start by consulting a doctor before any of the sensations get worse.

    “Knowing what you have or what you may not have, and how you can possibly be helped — it’s the first step,” Dr. Aliling says in closing. “Try to seek out help from verified sources and, of course, targeted help from your individual consultation from your doctor.”

    If you feel that you might be suffering neuropathic pain, seek a consultation with a member of the Philippine Neuropathic Association (PNA). Learn more about the PNA here.


    22nd Floor Unit C&D, Menarco Tower, 32nd Street

    Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Metro Manila


    January 6 2023


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Written by

    Mia Dacumos, MD

    Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

    Updated May 24, 2023

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