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Neuralgia, or neuropathic pain, is pain associated with a nerve disorder or damage. The pain can be characterized by sharp, stabbing or throbbing sensations.

Other symptoms include numbness or increased sensitivity along the path of the nerve or weakness in the surrounding muscles.

There are many types of neuralgia: The more common ones are trigeminal neuralgia, postherpetic neuralgia (nerve pain that remains after shingles) and occipital neuralgia.

Neuralgia: what you should know

  • In many cases, the cause of neuralgia is unknown.
  • While not life-threatening, nerve pain can be both physically and mentally disabling due to the unpredictable and severe pain.
  • In the case of shingles, research suggests getting the herpes zoster vaccine can prevent neuralgia.

How can I get help for neuralgia?

Call your primary care doctor if any of the following occur:

  • You have, or suspect you have, shingles.
  • Your pain does not go away or is not relieved by over-the-counter medication.
  • Your pain is severe and feels disabling.

Care for neuralgia at Rush

  • Depending on the type of pain you have and where it is located, your primary care doctor may refer you to a neurologist, pain medicine or other specialist for further assessment and treatment.
  • Treatments vary depending on the cause (if known), location and severity of the pain. For instance, if you have nerve pain related to diabetes, your doctor will work with you to keep strict control over your blood sugar.
  • Your doctor will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan. In many cases, your doctor will use medications to control the pain. Other treatments include the following:
    • Nerve injections using local anesthetic directly to the affected nerve can assist in diagnosis and a therapeutic plan of treatment
    • Surgical procedures, such as microvascular decompression, to reduce feeling or take pressure off a nerve

Why choose Rush for neuralgia care

  • The neurological sciences and neurological surgery programs at Rush are consistently ranked among the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report in its annual “Best Hospitals” issue.
  • Neurosurgeons at Rush have extensive experience treating neuralgias, including glossopharyngeal neuralgia. This experience gives them a balanced view of all surgical options, which allows them to find the best choice for each patient.
  • To treat occipital neuralgia, Rush interventional pain medicine physicians can perform occipital nerve stimulation, which can provide long-term pain relief. Physicians at Rush were among the few in the country to participate in the initial clinical studies for occipital neuralgia and the use of nerve stimulators
  • To treat trigeminal neuralgia, Rush offers TrueBeam Stx radiosurgery. TrueBeam has an advanced computer-imaging system that compensates for small head movements, allowing patients to lie comfortably during the procedure.

Departments and programs that treat this condition