As you look through PainHQ or other neuropathic pain resources, you may have questions about the different terms used to discuss or describe neuropathic pain. This glossary will take you through the basics. If there’s something missing that you’d like explained, please contact us


  • Acupuncture

    The application of thin needles, strategically inserted into the skin for a short duration of time. Believed by some to assist in pain relief.  
  • Acute Pain

    Acute pain refers to a discrete pain incident. (See chronic pain for comparison).
  • Allyodynia

    When an individual experiences a painful response to something that would not normally be hurtful.  For example, the feeling of clothing against skin would result in pain. 
  • Analgesic medication

    Drugs that relieve pain without impacting any sensory abilities (ex., Asprin).
  • Anesthetic medication

    Drugs that block sensory awareness, including pain and the ability to move (ex., Morphine).
  • Anticonvulsants

    Drugs that makes nerve cells less excitable, preventing seizures. Also used in the management and treatment of neuropathic pain.
  • Antidepressants

    Drugs that enhance activity of neurons, relieving depression. Also used in the management and treatment of neuropathic pain.
  • Biofeedback

    The process of monitoring a bodily function (i.e., pain) with electrical sensors to help a patient develop better control over the given function. 
  • Central nervous system (CNS)

    The CNS refers to the system of nerves comprising the spinal cord, brain and brain stem. 
  • Central neuropathy

    Injury or disease of the brain, brain stem and / or spinal cord.
  • Chiropractic manipulation

    A technique applying force to joints and surrounding tissues to improve movement and relieve pain.
  • Chronic pain

    Chronic pain refers to ongoing pain, which can last months, years or even a lifetime. Chronic pain may be caused by neuropathy, inflammation or sensitization. (See acute pain for comparison).
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy

    Psychological counseling that develops new patterns of thought to support functional improvement.
  • Compressive neuropathy

    Injury or disease of the nervous system caused by the nerve being pressed out of its normal space by other tissue (ex., sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, trigeminal neuralgia).
  • Congenital/hereditary neuropathy

    Injury or disease of the nervous system due to a genetic mutation (ex., Fabry’s disease, Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease).
  • Diabetic neuropathy

    Peripheral neuropathy caused when diabetic metabolism releases toxins that damage the nerves.  
  • Dysesthesia

    An abnormal, unpleasant sense of touch – often represented by pain.  
  • Electric stimulation

    Using electricity or electromagnetic fields to affect nerves for temporary pain relief. Can be applied to muscles through the skin (TENs), or to particular nerves, the spinal cord or brain.
  • Hyperalgesia

    A heightened pain response to a normally painful stimulus or experience. 
  • Infectious neuropathy

    Injury or disease of the nervous system due to infection (ex., shingles, Lyme disease, HIV).
  • Inflammation

    When an area of the body become swollen, tender or painful after an injury or other form of physical damage. 
  • Multidisciplinary treatment

    Incorporates more than one kind of professional expertise in treatment (ex., psychology and physical therapy).
  • Nerve blocks

    Injections targeting a specific part of the body with chemical agents that block nerve signals, for temporary pain relief.
  • Neurons

    Neurons are commonly known as nerve cells and are responsible for transferring electrical and chemical signals through the body. Different types of neurons are responsible for the body’s senses, motor skills and muscle contractions.  
  • Neuropathic pain

    Pain caused as a result of damage to a person’s nervous system. 
  • Neuropathy

    Injury, damage or disease to the nervous system.
  • Neurotransmitters

    The chemicals that pass signals between neurons. 
  • Nociceptive pain

    Pain resulting from damage to non-nervous tissue. This is the most common experience of pain (i.e., stubbing your toe).
  • Occupational therapy

    Treatment that helps you learn to perform activities of daily living without pain.
  • Pain receptors

    Cells in the nervous system that create unpleasant sensations when you are hurt.
  • Peripheral nervous system (PNS)

    The PNS refers to the system of nerves communicating throughout the body back to the central nervous system.
  • Peripheral neuropathy

    Injury or disease of the nerves in the peripheral nervous system.
  • Physical therapy

    The use of heat, cold, mobilization, manipulation and stimulation to increase function and relieve pain.
  • Sensitization

    The increased activity in the cells of the pain receptors resulting in amplified feelings of pain.
  • Shingles

    Painful inflammation of the skin caused by re-activation of the Varicella Zoster virus (Chicken Pox) in the nerves.
  • Somatic pain

    An unpleasant sensation in the skin or the parts of the body used for movement (ie., arms, legs, back, neck).
  • TENs (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)

    Electric pulses delivered through the skin to muscular nerves to relieve pain and increase circulation to the affected area.
  • Topical analgesic medication

    Analgesic medication applied to the surface of the skin.
  • Transduction

    Refers to the process of converting an injury into the electrical and chemical signals known as pain. 
  • Traumatic Neuropathy

    Injury or disease of the nervous system caused by a sudden impact (ex., stroke).