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).
  • Traumatic Neuropathy

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

    Refers to the process of converting an injury into the electrical and chemical signals known as pain. 
  • Topical analgesic medication

    Analgesic medication applied to the surface of the skin.
  • TENs (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)

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

    An unpleasant sensation in the skin or the parts of the body used for movement (ie., arms, legs, back, neck).
  • Shingles

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

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

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

    Cells in the nervous system that create unpleasant sensations when you are hurt.
  • Occupational therapy

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

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

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

    The chemicals that pass signals between neurons. 
  • Neuropathic pain

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

    Injury, damage or disease to the nervous system.
  • 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.  
  • Multidisciplinary treatment

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

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

    An abnormal, unpleasant sense of touch – often represented by pain.  
  • Diabetic neuropathy

    Peripheral neuropathy caused when diabetic metabolism releases toxins that damage the nerves.  
  • Congenital/hereditary neuropathy

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

    Psychological counseling that develops new patterns of thought to support functional improvement.
  • 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).
  • Chiropractic manipulation

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

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

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

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