What is Neuropathic Pain?
Neuropathic pain disorders are a set of pain conditions resulting from disorder or injury to the nervous system. The human nervous system is divided into two general parts: the central nervous system, comprised of the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system, including nerves that go to the limbs, trunk, face and all outlying areas of the body. When nerves of the peripheral system sense pain from mechanical, chemical or thermal sensations, they relay the sensation to the central nervous system for processing. Additionally, the spine and brain command a network a nerves conducting sensation along the back, neck, head and face. Damage to nerves of the peripheral or central nervous system can cause pain signals to be sent to the brain, which may result in the chronic pain condition known as neuropathic pain.
Neuropathic pain may manifest as continuous or episodic, with episodic attacks described as an electric shock and continuous attacks often experienced as feelings of prolonged aching, burning, sensitivity or coldness. Neuropathic orofacial pain conditions refer to those with symptoms that primarily affect a patient's mouth and face. Orofacial means of the mouth and face, but when used to describe medical conditions, it can also include areas of the head.
The most common orofacial neuropathic pain condition is trigeminal neuralgia, a disorder of the trigeminal or 5th cranial nerve, which causes sudden, severe shock-like pain in or around the face. Episodes typically last several seconds, though they can last up to two minutes, and may repeat in succession and throughout the day.