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Managing Neuralgia Pain: How Osteopaths Can Help

Neuralgia means nerve pain. It can cause severe pain, which may be burning or shooting, as well as pins and needles, numbness, or weakness. Sciatica is a form of nerve pain, typically caused by mechanical irritation.

Nerve pain

Post Viral Neuralgia

Chicken pox and shingles are caused by a virus that lays dormant in the nervous system during remission. It is a virus from the herpes family, which is why this kind of nerve pain is called “post herpetic”. When it flares up as shingles in adulthood, the rash can often be seen to follow a line between ribs. This is not a coincidence: it is following a nerve. When the rash subsides, the area may remain sore or tender to touch. With neuralgia, this tenderness could be caused by even minor things like the rubbing of clothes or bedding against the skin.

Although not everyone who develops shingles will develop these longer lasting symptoms, it is quite common. Estimates suggest that between 9-35% of shingles patients go on to develop postherpetic neuralgia.

Trigeminal Neuralgia

The trigeminal nerve is a three-branched nerve that supplies the face. Unlike most nerves, it does not come from the spinal cord, but the brain itself. Whereas other trapped nerves only run close to bone where they leave the spine, the trigeminal nerve has a difficult journey out of the skull. The NHS suggests that the vast majority of cases are caused by pressure close to where the nerve leaves the brain itself. This means we are usually unable to affect the root cause, but we may still be able to help with managing the nerve sensitivity.

Symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia tend to affect 1/6 of the face. The nerves are paired, so each side supplies only one side of the face. As the nerve splits, it branches off into three parts as shown above. The forehead, the middle of the face, and the jaw. Most commonly, only one branch on one side is affected, although it is possible for more than one to be symptomatic.

Managing Nerve Pain

Your osteopath can work to help you manage your nerve pain. In cases where the root cause is mechanical, we will work to resolve it. This is more applicable to conditions like sciatica, where a problem with the back or local muscles.

Where it is more appropriate to manage the symptoms rather than the cause, we can help here too. Nerve pain, especially when it becomes chronic, is quite complicated. The brain plays a huge role in the way pain is interpreted, so strategies often involve working to convince the brain that the body is not under threat. Gradually increasing the pain threshold in the affected nerve is something we may be able to help with. This might be done through soft touch, which is slowly built up with the aim of desensitising the nerve. Understanding is another key part of feeling better, especially in conditions where the brain plays such a big role in symptoms. Your osteopath will explain your condition as fully as possible to help you gain control over it.


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