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​Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain (also called neuropathy, neuralgia, or nerve pain) occurs in about 7 - 10% of adults over age 30.

'Neuropathy affects people of all ages; however, older people are at increased risk. It is more common in men and in Caucasians. People in certain professions, such as those that require repetitive motions, have a greater chance of developing compression-related neuropathy.

Neuropathic pain happens when the nerves don't work properly and send the wrong signals to the brain.  It can feel like shooting, stabbing, an electric shock, burning, tingling, tight, numb, prickling, itching or a sensation of pins and needles. The pain can come and go, or be there all the time.

Neuropathic pain is different from pain caused by, for example, a pulled muscle or a sprain. Neuropathic pain can result from diabetes, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, shingles, and many other disorders.  A common cause is a trapped nerve, for example, in the back or neck. It can also occur after a stroke, after amputation of an arm or a leg, and in people with cancer or multiple sclerosis.

There are many ways of managing neuropathic pain, and drug treatment is just one aspect of that. As well as talking to your doctor about drug treatments that could help, it is important to talk to your doctor about what you can do to help yourself feel better.' (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence [UK])

When the cause of the neuropathy cannot be determined, it is called idiopathic neuropathy. About 30 to 40 percent of neuropathy cases are idiopathic. Another 30 percent are the result of diabetes.

Evidence-Based Resources

Diabetic NeuropathyHealthLinkBC
Diabetic Neuropathy InformationNational Institutes of Health; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (US)
Neuralgia MedLinePlus, National Institutes of Health (US)
Neuropathic Pain Fact SheetsInternational Association for the Study of Pain
Peripheral Nerve DisordersMedLinePlus, National Institutes of Health (US)
Peripheral NeuropathyHealthLinkBC
Peripheral Neuropathy InformationNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (US)

Prevention or Disease Remission

You can prevent some causes of nerve damage. 

  • Drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Follow a balanced diet.
  • Keep good control over diabetes and other medical problems.
  • Learn about chemicals used at your workplace.


Diabetic Neuropathy: Steps to Prevent or Delay Nerve Damage      American Diabetes Association

 Associated Conditions

Learn more about this topic, and related tools and decision aids:


Studies show that people with nerve pain have higher rates of sleep problems, anxiety, and depression.  Discover more information about each of these topics, along with tools and resources that may help:

For more information and additional practical tools for mental health, explore our sections on Self-Management and Treatment and our webinars on mental health and chronic pain.


Neuropathic Pain Stats​




Reviewed by Marc White PhD, Scientific & Executive Director, WWDPI (See Review Criteria​)​

Last Modified: 6/4/2018 3:50 PM