The treatment of neuropathic pain is not one-size-fits-all, and knowing where to start can be overwhelming.
“You want to know what your goals are,” says Peter Abaci, MD, a pain specialist with IPM Medical Group, a California practice that focuses on the management of chronic pain. “You start to have some targets for what you’re trying to get out of your treatment.”
Here’s a breakdown of who to ask about various treatment modalities for neuropathic pain.
Primary care doctors, pain management doctors, neurologists, surgeons, and other specialists can prescribe medication for neuropathic pain. Pharmacists also assist with managing medications.
Acupuncture and acupressure
Both Abaci and Helen Blake, MD, an interventional pain physician with St. Louis Spine and Orthopedic Surgery Center who is board certified in anesthesiology and pain management, recommend seeking out someone who provides these services full-time, rather than on the side.
“My preference, when sending patients for acupuncture, is to use someone who has training specifically in Eastern medicine and has trained and learned from people who specialize in acupuncture themselves,” Blake shares.
Some physical therapists and occupational therapists offer this progressive treatment that can help reduce hypersensitivity to touch.
External electrical stimulation devices
Primary care physicians, pain specialists, and physical therapists can help individuals try out different devices that deliver electrical impulses to various parts of the body. Some of these devices are also available over-the-counter.
Interventional pain specialists and peripheral nerve surgeons both provide injections such as nerve blocks. Neurologists and hand surgeons can provide diagnostic injections to help identify nerve compression.
Implantable neuromodulation devices
Both interventional pain specialists and neurosurgeons can work with individuals to determine if an implanted device to help block nerve signals is helpful in their pain management treatment plan.
Surgical nerve repair
Surgeons with specialized training in nerve repair, including plastic reconstructive, orthopedic, or hand surgeons, can work with individuals to determine if surgical treatment such as nerve repair is an appropriate treatment option.
Therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists can help with biofeedback and neurofeedback to help treat pain, as well as helping manage the mental health challenges that can accompany chronic pain.
Where to start
Blake recommends finding local patient or support groups and organizations who can make recommendations. She suggests checking devices’ websites to find providers in the area who are knowledgeable about various therapies. Pharmaceutical companies may have programs available to reduce costs of medications, too.
Blake also encourages patients to find a new provider if their current one isn’t serving their needs or making them feel cared for.
“If they’re with a doctor that isn’t suiting their needs, neither the doctor nor the patient wants to go through a lengthy therapeutic relationship that doesn’t yield results,” she says.