Prescription medications and treatments for nerve pain
Nerve pain, also called neuropathic pain, neuropathy or peripheral neuropathy can come from complications of conditions such as diabetes, cancer, MS, HIV or shingles. It can be long-term and feel like burning, stabbing, shooting, aching or throbbing pain.
Treating the underlying medical condition can often help reduce nerve pain, such as managing diabetes blood sugar levels.
Some medications a doctor may recommend can seem a surprising choice, as they may have originally been used to treat other conditions, such as depression and epilepsy.
Several types of medication and treatments are available for nerve pain symptoms. Doctors will make recommendations based on individual symptoms and circumstances.
If the first treatment chosen is not effective, or there are troublesome side-effects, other options or a combination of approaches may be explored.
Drug treatment will usually begin with the lowest dose and will be increased if necessary.
Nerve pain treatments include:
Amitriptyline. This tricyclic antidepressant medication is also used for depression and headaches. Side-effects include urination problems, constipation, dizziness, vision problems, unplanned weight changes.
Duloxetine. This serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) antidepressant is also prescribed for depression and bladder problems. Side-effects include mental health problems, allergic reactions, drowsiness and liver problems.
Pregabalin and gabapentin. These anticonvulsants are also used to treat epilepsy, headaches or anxiety. Pregabalin side effects include dizziness, sleepiness, fatigue and headache. Gabapentin side-effects include fatigue, sleepiness, unsteadiness, infections and fever.
Tramadol. This is a strong opioid painkiller similar to morphine that may be recommended if other approaches have not helped. Side-effects include nausea, vomiting, constipation, dizziness and addiction if taken for too long.
Capsaicin cream. This is made from chillis and is put on the skin to help to reduce nerve pain signals. This may cause a burning feeling on the skin.
Lidocaine sticking plaster. This sticks on the skin releasing anaesthetic into the affected area.
Complementary therapies. Some people find relief from nerve pain with complementary approaches, such as acupuncture and herbal remedies. Seek medical advice before starting these treatments to make sure they won't interfere with other medication or treatments. With approaches such as acupuncture, make sure you find a trained practitioner who is a member of a professional organisation.