Event Recap: Understanding Neuropathic Pain

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On November 17, 2021, the U.S. Pain Foundation hosted a webinar on neuropathic pain and treatments as a part of our 2021 KNOWvember campaign.

Moderated by CEO Nicole Hemmenway, the presentation featured Helen Blake, MD, a specialist in pain management from the St. Louis Spine and Orthopedic Surgery Center, who discussed the causes of neuropathic pain, treatment options, and much more. 

“Nerve pain is really complicated and affects a lot of different patients,” Dr. Blake said. “A lot of patients don’t even realize it’s what they have until they can find someone who can identify it.”

Dr. Blake specializes in the care of patients who have been injured at work or in motor vehicle accidents and helps them reclaim their lives after facing unexpected challenges, and has also written the book Move Freely: Get Your Life Back After Injury

At the beginning of her presentation, Dr. Blake shared how finding treatment for people with neuropathic pain can be a difficult and confusing process. 

“Physicians vary greatly in their understanding of neuropathic pain,” she said. “A lot of patients bounce between multiple doctors before they really ever get any reasonable step forward in their care.”

Dr. Blake went on to discuss various treatments for neuropathic pain, including medications, injections, surgery options, spinal cord stimulation, and peripheral nerve stimulation, but she noted that one of the most effective treatments—lifestyle changes—is often not discussed in enough detail by doctors. 

“There is no pill that is better than showing up and making lifestyle changes,” she said. “If you put inflammatory things in your body, you’re constantly fighting an uphill battle. A pill might be able to do some things to help, but if you’re constantly creating an environment where your nerves are being poisoned, you’re just not going to make any forward gains.”

Though lifestyle changes can be difficult to make, Dr. Blake encouraged attendees to make small changes one by one to encourage nerve regeneration. She recommended people with nerve pain embrace a “vegan adjacent diet,” slowly incorporating more fruits and vegetables into all meals. 

Dr. Blake also stressed the importance of mental health, explaining that depression and anxiety play an instrumental role in the development and continuation of neuropathic pain.

“When you’ve lost the ability to do the things you like to do, you have this thought that you need to do everything that you used to be able to do,” she said. “When really, if you take small steps forward, you can slowly move forward.”

Dr. Blake also touched on emerging treatment options that could be of huge benefit to people with neuropathic pain. To view the full presentation and learn more, click on the video above.

Learn more about neuropathic pain and U.S. Pain’s 2021 KNOWvember campaign.

This campaign was created through support from Axogen, Inc. and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. U.S. Pain Foundation developed the content without review from sponsors.  This information is educational only and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a health care professional. 

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