Neuropathic Drugs and Medications
Treating Back and Neck Pain Caused by Nerve Damage
Neuropathic pain is pain that is caused by damage to the nervous system. Simply put, it is nerve-related pain. It is characterized by chronic pain that is burning and tingling. The pain can be intense—shooting from one location to another. Fortunately, there are drugs and medications available that can help relieve neuropathic pain.
Neuropathic pain is a special and complex type of pain in how it's treated. What that means is that it generally won't respond to traditional analgesics, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or opioids.
In treating your pain, your doctor may refer to a "neuropathic agent," which is anything that acts on neuropathic pain. In other words, neuropathic agents will help treat your pain.
Common medications or agents used to treat neuropathic pain are (listed in the order they are typically prescribed):
- Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs): Doctors have used this class of antidepressant to treat neuropathic pain for more 2 decades. TCAs, such as amitriptyline (marketed as Elavil), are typically the first medications used to treat neuropathic pain, as they have produced the most successful outcomes.
- Anticonvulsants: These medications are particularly effective against pain that is described as burning. These medications work by suppressing nerve activity and firing. They are the same medications used to suppress your brain from having seizures, but they can also be effective by suppressing pain. Gabapentin (Neurontin) is an example of an anti-convulsant that has few side effects and can reduce neuropathic pain.
In some cases, the combination of anti-depressants with anti-convulsants has effectively combated the wide range of symptoms associated with neuropathic pain.
- Local Anesthetics: If TCAs and anticonvulsant medications don't work for you, local anesthetics may be treatment option. These medications block pain messages to nerves. Lidocaine (Anestacon) is an example of a local anesthetic. This can be administered as an injection—although it is very short lived—or as a patch worn on the skin for slow absorption.
Other medications that may relieve neuropathic pain include corticosteroids and topical drugs, such as capsaicin cream. However, you may have to wait longer before their pain-relieving benefits become apparent.
When it comes to neuropathic pain, the longer you wait to seek treatment, the more difficult it is to control your pain with medication. Don't be afraid to seek medical advice early on if you notice chronic pain symptoms.
It is important to remember that back pain and leg pain display both types of pain: neuropathic and nociceptive. Treating both types of pain together is what can be especially challenging. As always, talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns you may have regarding neuropathic pain or your medication.