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Postsurgical Nerve Pain

Some pain after surgery is normal. However, it should only last a short time. Pain that persists for months or even years is a problem that plagues a small number of people who have had some type of surgery. Estimates on the frequency of post-surgical nerve pain vary; some sources say that as many as half of patients of some procedures will experience post-surgical nerve pain. Other sources estimate that between two and three percent of the population will experience it.

What is Post-Surgical Nerve Pain?

Sensory nerves are the nerves that transmit signals like touch, pain and other sensations. They are present throughout your body along with nerves that control movement and involuntary functions. Post-surgical nerve pain, also sometimes called postoperative neuropathic pain can develop if nerves were damaged during your surgery. When nerves are damaged, they can no longer send pain signals correctly. The result is chronic pain that can last for months or years.

Symptoms of Postsurgical Nerve Pain

The symptoms of postsurgical nerve pain are typically limited to the part of the body where surgery took place and the incision point. When it is located at the incision point, it is often referred to as localized neuropathic pain.

The pain is often a stabbing or shooting pain. There may be numbness around the area or a hypersensitivity to touch. While it is less common, some people also experience itching in the area. Depending on the type of nerves that were damaged, you may also experience weakness or issues with positional awareness of the affected area.

What Causes Postsurgical Nerve Pain?

During surgery, nerves can become injured. When they do not heal properly, the result can be long-term pain. In many cases, the pain is attributed to nerves that have been cut, compressed, or stretched during surgery. However, research from the Mayo Clinic indicates that inflammation of the nerves can be a cause of postsurgical nerve pain.

There are a number of factors that can increase your risk level for postsurgical nerve pain. These can include a history of chronic pain disorders, a history of anxiety or depression, and extensive or complicated surgeries.

Diagnosing Postsurgical Nerve Pain

Diagnosis of postsurgical nerve pain is usually based on patient history that includes information about the pain you are experiencing. We’ll ask about the type of pain you feel, its intensity and frequency, and any potential causes besides postsurgical pain. During a physical examination, we’ll examine your incision site and get a better idea of what sorts of sensations you are experiencing.

Postsurgical Nerve Pain Treatment

Researchers have found that guided imagery and meditation can help individuals with chronic pain find relief. Our pain levels are often linked to and exacerbated by our emotions about our pain; by learning relaxation techniques, we can reduce pain intensity. These techniques are used in conjunction with other pain relief therapies for maximum effectiveness.

Pain relievers that can include NSAIDs may provide relief from postsurgical pain. Other medications that can be prescribed to help with postsurgical pain can include tricyclic antidepressants and some anti-seizure drugs. In cases of severe pain that cannot be relieved with other methods, nerve blocks can provide relief. This therapy can block the transmission of pain signals without affecting movement or other sensations.

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