Neurological Pain Disorders

Neurological pain can be debilitating and significantly impact a person's quality of life significantly. Neurological pain disorders include conditions that involve chronic pain originating from the nervous system.

Neurological pain, or nerve pain, can be sharp, throbbing, and chronic, affecting different parts of the body. These conditions include disruptions in the nervous system, affecting how you feel and move.

We are committed to providing comprehensive care for managing neurological pain at Haynes Neurosurgical Group. If you or a loved one is experiencing chronic pain of neurological origin, contact us to schedule a consultation and explore available treatment options.

Common neurological pain disorders include:

Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain is a complex and often chronic condition that results from damage or dysfunction in the nervous system, particularly the peripheral or central nerves. 

This type of pain is different from pain caused by tissue damage or inflammation. This is because neuropathic pain occurs when the nerves themselves are damaged or malfunctioning, leading to persistent pain signals being sent to the brain. 

Neuropathic pain is characterized by shooting or burning sensations, tingling, and heightened sensitivity to stimuli. It can be spontaneous or triggered by seemingly harmless touches and may result from conditions such as diabetic neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia, or nerve compression. 

Causes of Neuropathic Pain

Causes and contributing factors for neuropathic pain can include:

  • Diabetic Neuropathy - Elevated blood sugar levels can damage nerves over time.
  • Trauma or Injury - Physical injuries, surgeries, or trauma can lead to nerve damage.
  • Viral or Bacterial Infections - Infections affecting the nerves, such as herpes zoster (shingles), can result in persistent pain.
  • Autoimmune Diseases - Rheumatoid arthritis or lupus can trigger immune responses affecting nerves.
  • Neurological Disorders - Multiple sclerosis (MS) or stroke can lead to nerve damage.

Symptoms of Neuropathic Pain

Common neuropathic pain symptoms include:

  • Burning or shooting pain
  • Tingling or "pins and needles" sensations
  • Hypersensitivity to touch
  • Numbness
  • Weakness in the affected area

Diagnosing Neuropathic Pain

Diagnosing neuropathic pain involves a comprehensive evaluation, including a detailed medical history and physical examination. The diagnostic process may also involve specialized tests, such as nerve conduction studies and imaging tests like MRIs, to help identify the location and extent of nerve damage.

Treatment Options for Neuropathic Pain

Managing neuropathic pain requires a multifaceted approach, including:

  • Medications: Antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and pain relievers may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms.
  • Physical Therapy: Exercises and physical interventions can help improve nerve function and reduce pain.
  • Nerve Blocks: Injections of local anesthetics or steroids can target specific nerves to provide relief.
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Managing underlying conditions, such as diabetes, and adopting a healthy lifestyle can contribute to symptom control.

Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is a neurological condition characterized by sudden, severe facial pain. This pain stems from the trigeminal nerve, a major facial nerve responsible for transmitting sensations from the face to the brain. 

The condition is marked by episodes of intense, stabbing pain, often described as electric shocks, typically affecting one side of the face.

Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is often caused by the compression of the trigeminal nerve, a major nerve responsible for facial sensation. This compression can be a result of a compression of nearby blood vessels, leading to irritation and intense pain. 

In some cases, conditions like multiple sclerosis can contribute to the development of trigeminal neuralgia.

Symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia

The hallmark symptom of trigeminal neuralgia is sudden, excruciating facial pain. The pain typically occurs on one side of the face and can be triggered by seemingly routine activities such as: 

  • Touching the face
  • Chewing

The pain has been described by patients to be like electric shocks or stabbing sensations, these episodes are intense and can significantly impact daily life.

Diagnosis of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), help visualize the condition of the trigeminal nerve and rule out other potential causes of facial pain. The diagnosis aims to differentiate trigeminal neuralgia from other facial pain disorders.

Treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Neurosurgical interventions aim to provide relief from the debilitating pain associated with trigeminal neuralgia and improve the overall quality of life. Treatment options can include:

  • Medications such as anticonvulsants may be prescribed to manage pain and prevent trigeminal neuralgia attacks. 
  • Microvascular decompression is a surgical procedure that involves repositioning blood vessels to relieve compression on the trigeminal nerve. 
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery is a neurosurgical technique that uses precise radiation to target the trigeminal nerve and reduce its hyperactivity.

Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia

Glossopharyngeal neuralgia is a neurological condition characterized by recurrent, severe episodes of stabbing pain in the back of the throat, tongue, and ear. This condition involves the glossopharyngeal nerve, one of the cranial nerves responsible for sensation in the throat and tongue.

Causes of Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia

Compression or irritation of the glossopharyngeal nerve causes glossopharyngeal neuralgia. This compression can be a result of the compression of blood vessels near the nerve or other structural issues. In some cases, the exact cause may not be identified.

Symptoms of Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia

The main symptom of glossopharyngeal neuralgia is sudden, intense pain typically on one side of the throat, tongue, and ear. Painful episodes can be triggered by activities such as swallowing, talking, coughing, or even the sensation of cold air.

Diagnosis of Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia

Diagnosing glossopharyngeal neuralgia involves a thorough examination of symptoms and medical history. Imaging studies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be used to rule out other potential causes. 

Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies may also be employed to assess nerve function.

Treatment Options in a Neurosurgical Context

Treatment options for glossopharyngeal neuralgia can include:

  • Medications: Anticonvulsant medications, similar to those used in trigeminal neuralgia, may be prescribed to manage pain.
  • Microvascular Decompression: This neurosurgical procedure involves repositioning or placing a buffer between the compressing vessel and the nerve to alleviate irritation.
  • Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS): Radiosurgery may be used to target the glossopharyngeal nerve and reduce nerve activity, providing relief from pain.
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RF ablation): It is a medical procedure that uses radiofrequency energy to create heat and destroy or ablate tissue.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic and often debilitating condition characterized by severe pain, swelling, and changes in skin color and temperature. 

CRPS is a chronic pain condition that typically affects an arm or leg after an injury or trauma. The pain experienced is often disproportionate to the initial injury.

CRPS is a relatively rare condition. It can affect people at any age but is more common in women and tends to peak in incidence between the ages of 40 and 60.

CRPS is often classified into two stages:

  • Acute Stage: It is characterized by severe pain, swelling, and changes in skin color. This stage usually lasts a few months.
  • Chronic Stage: If CRPS persists beyond the initial stage, it may become chronic, with symptoms potentially worsening over time.

Causes of CRPS

CRPS often develops after an injury, surgery, or trauma, although the exact cause remains unclear. Contributing factors may include:

  • Nerve Injury: CRPS can be triggered by nerve injuries, either directly or indirectly, leading to abnormal signaling.
  • Immune System Dysfunction: An abnormal immune response may contribute to the inflammation and pain observed in CRPS.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Some people may have a genetic predisposition to developing CRPS.
  • Inflammatory Responses: Inflammation plays a significant role in CRPS, contributing to pain and changes in skin color and temperature.

Symptoms of CRPS

CRPS manifests with a range of symptoms, including:

  • Intense, burning pain
  • Swelling and stiffness
  • Changes in skin color and temperature (redness or coolness)
  • Altered hair and nail growth
  • Sensitivity to touch or temperature changes
  • Motor dysfunction, such as muscle spasms or weakness

Diagnosing CRPS

Diagnosing CRPS involves a thorough clinical evaluation, including a detailed medical history, physical examination, and imaging studies to rule out other potential causes of symptoms.

Treatment for CRPS

While there is no cure for CRPS, various treatment options can be employed to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. These may include:

  • Pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, and medications targeting nerve pain
  • Exercises and physical interventions to improve mobility and reduce stiffness
  • Sympathetic nerve block or anesthetic agent injections near affected nerves may provide temporary relief
  • Spinal cord stimulation through an implanted device that delivers electrical impulses to the spinal cord and modulates pain signals
  • Counseling and psychological support can address the emotional impact of living with chronic pain.


Migraines are a common neurological pain disorder characterized by recurrent and intense headaches that can significantly impact an individual's quality of life. These headaches are typically pulsating in nature, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. 

Migraines can last for hours or even days, causing distress and interfering with daily activities. While the exact cause of migraines is not fully understood, it may involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurochemical factors. 

Triggers such as stress, hormonal changes, certain foods or drinks, and environmental factors can contribute to the onset of migraines. There is no definitive cure for migraines, but various treatment options are available to manage and alleviate symptoms.

Causes of Migraines

Migraines impact over 39 million people in the US. Although the exact cause of migraines is not fully understood, multiple factors may contribute to it:

  • Family history of migraines increases the likelihood of experiencing them.
  • Abnormalities in brain activity and neurotransmitter imbalances can cause migraines.
  • Factors such as stress, hormonal changes, specific foods, lack of sleep, and environmental factors can trigger migraines.

Symptoms of Migraines

Migraines manifest distinct symptoms, including:

  • Throbbing pain: Usually on one side of the head.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Common during migraine attacks.
  • Sensitivity to light and sound: Patients often seek dark and quiet environments.
  • Aura: Some people experience visual disturbances, such as light flashes or blind spots, before the headache begins.

Diagnosing Migraines

Neurosurgical interventions for migraines are typically reserved for specific cases and are not the first line of treatment. 

At Haynes Neurosurgical Group, thorough evaluations by our neurosurgeon are crucial to determine the most suitable approach based on the patient’s medical history, symptoms, and response to other treatments.

Treatment for Migraines

At Haynes Neurosurgical Group, we offer several treatment options for migraines, particularly for cases that are severe, chronic, or unresponsive to conventional therapies.

  • Occipital Nerve Stimulation (ONS): Procedure to implant electrodes near the occipital nerves, which are located at the base of the skull. The electrodes emit electrical pulses that modulate the activity of the occipital nerves, potentially reducing migraine frequency and intensity.
  • Peripheral Nerve Decompression Surgery: Procedure to target specific nerves that may be compressed or irritated, such as the supraorbital and occipital nerves. This helps release pressure on these nerves to alleviate migraine symptoms.
  • Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS): Procedure to implant electrodes in specific areas of the brain associated with migraine pathways. Electrical stimulation is delivered to modulate abnormal brain activity and reduce the frequency of migraines. It may be considered for severe cases.
  • Glycerol Rhizotomy: A minimally invasive technique that targets the trigeminal nerve. Glycerol is injected near the nerve to reduce its activity, potentially relieving migraine pain.

Treating Neurological Pain Disorders in Alabama

At Haynes Neurosurgical Group, our experienced neurosurgeons specialize in the nuances of neurological movement disorders. We use advanced diagnostics and patient-centered care to empower patients to lead fulfilling and functional lives.

Our seasoned neurosurgeons use highly advanced technologies and employ a patient-centric ethos at Alabama’s premiere neurosurgical practice.

To schedule a consultation with one of our experts, call us at (205) 787-8676 or request an appointment online. 

Phone: (205) 787-8676
Fax: (205) 785-7944

801 Princeton Avenue, S.W.
P.O.B. I, Suite 310
Birmingham, AL 35211

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