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What is Neuralgia

Apr 20, 2023 By Nancy Miller

Have you ever experienced a sharp, burning pain that spreads through the area surrounding your eyes or faces without any warning? If so, you may be familiar with the irritating sensation of neuralgia.

Neuralgia is an umbrella term for extreme shooting pains or prolonged numbness and tingling in specific nerves and nerve pathways around the head, neck, and shoulder areas. It can be caused by various conditions such as diabetes, pinched nerves from arthritis, contact sports injuries, and other ailments.

With advanced diagnosis techniques like MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), ultrasounds, and nerve conduction studies, doctors can increasingly pinpoint the exact cause of these painful sensations – making treatment options more viable for people whose lives have been severely impacted by this condition.

Definition of Neuralgia and Types of Neuralgia

Neuralgia is a term used to describe sharp, shooting pain along the course of a nerve. Neuralgia can be caused by nerve injury, disease, or certain medications and can be localized to one area of the body or travel along the entire length of a nerve. Several types of neuralgia vary depending on the cause and the affected part of the body.

These include trigeminal neuralgia, occipital neuralgia, glossopharyngeal neuralgia, postherpetic neuralgia, and atypical facial pain.

  1. Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition that causes intense facial pain along one side of the face, whereas occipital neuralgia causes pain at the back of the head and neck.
  2. Glossopharyngeal neuralgia is a rare form of facial pain that affects the throat and tongue.
  3. Postherpetic neuralgia is caused by shingles infections and can cause chronic pain in affected areas.
  4. Atypical facial pain is a chronic condition that causes intense, burning sensations in the face.

No matter the type of neuralgia, seeking medical care for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan is important. A doctor may prescribe medications or recommend lifestyle changes that can help manage symptoms.

Surgical intervention may be used for more severe cases. Speaking with a doctor about the most appropriate treatment option for you is important.

Causes of Neuralgia

  • Nerve injury or damage, certain diseases, and medications can cause neuralgia.
  • Nerve damage can occur due to trauma from an accident or surgery or from conditions like diabetes that cause damage to the nerves over time.
  • Certain infectious diseases, such as shingles, may cause nerve damage and lead to neuralgia.
  • Finally, certain medications may cause a reaction that damages nerves and leads to neuralgia.

Speaking with your doctor about any medications you are taking and their potential side effects is important. You should also alert your doctor if you have recently experienced an injury or infection that could affect the nerves.

By understanding the cause of neuralgia, you and your doctor can create a treatment plan to manage your symptoms.

Diagnosing Neuralgia

The diagnosis process for neuralgia varies depending on the type of neuralgia and its underlying cause. Different imaging tests may be used to look for signs of nerve injury or damage.

Your doctor may also order a blood test for evidence of infection or certain diseases. Some types of neuralgia require more specialized tests, such as an electromyogram (EMG) or nerve conduction velocity (NCV) test, to measure the speed at which electrical signals pass through your nerves.

An EMG or NCV test may be more accurate in diagnosing certain types of neuralgia, such as trigeminal neuralgia.

Symptoms of Neuralgia

The most common symptom of neuralgia is intense shooting or stabbing pain along the affected nerve. The pain can range from mild to severe and may be constant or intermittent.

In some cases, the pain may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as tingling or numbness in the affected area. The intensity and severity of the symptoms can vary depending on the underlying cause and type of neuralgia.

Some people may experience more severe pain when touching certain areas or during certain activities.

Treating Neuralgia

The treatment for neuralgia varies depending on the symptoms' underlying cause and severity. Sometimes, lifestyle modifications such as avoiding triggers, changing posture, and exercising can help manage symptoms.

Medication is also an important part of the treatment process. Pain relievers, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and other medications may be used to reduce pain and improve quality of life. Surgery is sometimes necessary to treat nerve damage or relieve pressure on the affected nerve.

Reaching a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan can relieve neuralgia symptoms. You can find ways to manage your condition and improve your quality of life with proper care.

Coping with Chronic Pain from Neuralgia

Living with chronic pain can be difficult, but there are ways to manage the symptoms and improve your quality of life. One way to cope is to engage in activities that bring you joy.

Pursuing hobbies, spending time with loved ones, or even walking outside can help distract from the pain. Finding relaxation methods, such as meditation or yoga, can help manage stress and ease tension. Joining a support group is also beneficial.

Sharing experiences with others who understand your condition can provide comfort and offer valuable advice on coping with the pain. Similarly, speaking with a therapist may also be beneficial in helping you navigate the emotional impact of chronic pain.

Finally, you and your doctor should work together to create an effective treatment plan. This may include discussing medications, lifestyle modifications, and other treatments that can relieve the pain associated with neuralgia.

By speaking openly with your doctor and engaging in activities that bring joy, you can find ways to manage your condition and improve your quality of life.

Preventing Long-Term Damage from Neuralgia

In addition to treatment, preventive measures can help reduce the risk of long-term nerve damage from neuralgia. To prevent further damage, it is important to identify and avoid triggers that may cause flare-ups.

People with neuralgia are also recommended to maintain a healthy lifestyle by getting enough rest, practicing good posture, and eating a balanced diet. Exercise can also help reduce pain and improve overall well-being.

Additionally, reducing stress can go a long way in preventing flare-ups. Stress worsens neuralgia symptoms, so taking breaks from physically or mentally demanding activities is important. Finding relaxation methods, such as deep breathing exercises or mindfulness activities, can also help reduce stress.

By following preventive measures and engaging in appropriate treatment, people with neuralgia can manage their symptoms and reduce the risk of long-term nerve damage.


Where is neuralgia pain located?

Neuralgia pain can occur anywhere in the body where a nerve has been damaged or irritated. The pain is often described as sharp, shooting, or burning and may be accompanied by tingling or numbness in the affected area.

What is the best treatment for neuralgia?

The best treatment for neuralgia will depend on the underlying cause. Treatment options may include lifestyle modifications, medications, and in some cases, surgery. Speaking to a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan is important.

Does neuralgia go away?

Neuralgia can be a chronic condition, so working with your doctor to create an effective treatment plan is important. While the pain may not go away completely, you and your doctor can work together to manage the symptoms and improve your quality of life.


Neuralgia is an intensely painful and often misunderstood condition that can cause serious disruption to your life. It can be effectively managed if diagnosed, but it requires quick action from the patient.

Thankfully, with improved technologies like MRIs, ultrasounds, and nerve conduction studies, medical professionals can accurately identify the source of neuralgia, which could lead to complications being caught early and treated quickly.

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