Symptoms of nerve pain

It can be difficult to describe nerve pain. However, most people who suffer with nerve pain talk about feeling a sharp, spontaneous pain, almost like an electric shock or burning. The pain is typically at its worst during the night. Other common symptoms of nerve pain include:1-3

Allodynia – pain due to a stimulus that does not normally provoke pain, such as light touch, movement, heat, or cold4
Hyperesthesia – increased sensitivity to stimulation, excluding the special senses4
Hyperalgesia – increased pain from a stimulus that normally provokes pain4
Hyperpathia – painful syndrome characterized by an abnormally painful reaction to a stimulus, especially a repetitive stimulus, as well as an increased threshold4
Paresthesia and dysesthesia – an unpleasant abnormal sensation, whether spontaneous or evoked4,5

Nerve pain descriptors


Electric Shocks

Pins and needles

Crawling ants

Painful cold


Does your pain feel like any one (or a combination) of the above?
Use these nerve pain descriptors when describing your pain to your doctor

Only you know how your pain feels. Therefore, it is important for you to pay attention to how your pain feels and to write it down. Try to describe your pain as accurately as you can. Does your pain feel like any one of the above descriptors or a combination of them? Use pain descriptors such as burning, shooting, stabbing, tingling or numb. Try to use adjectives that can paint an accurate picture of your pain to your doctor.



  1. Cruccu G, Truini A. Tools for assessing neuropathic pain. PLoS Medicine. 2009;6(4):e1000045.
  2. Painful diabetic neuropathy. Available at: Accessed 25 January, 2016.
  3. NIH. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Peripheral neuropathy fact sheet. Available at:
  4. IASP. Available at: Accessed 25 January, 2016.
  5. IASP. Classification of chronic pain. 2002. Available at: Accessed 25 January, 2016.
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