Neuropathic pain: a guide to comprehensive assessment

Document Type


Peer Reviewed


Publication Date


NLM Title Abbreviation

Pain Manage Nurs

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Pain Management Nursing

PubMed ID


Start Page


End Page



Patients with neuropathic pain present a clinical challenge. Neuropathic pain, when chronic, often leads to disability. Diagnosis can be difficult because both positive and negative sensory and motor signs and symptoms may be present, as well as a variety of comorbid conditions. In addition, there may be a high degree of interpatient variability. Currently, clinical evaluation, rather than diagnostic tests, is one of the best available tools for assessment and diagnosis. As with all chronic pain conditions, the key to a thorough assessment is a thorough history that includes medical, functional, and psychosocial evaluations. Currently available pain assessment tools, which are widely used in nursing practice, are still inadequate for use in patients with neuropathic pain. The physical and neurologic examination remains a critical element for patient evaluation. This includes an assessment of spontaneous pain (continuous or intermittent), pain evoked by daily activities (allodynia), and other abnormal sensations that are not necessarily painful (paresthesias, dysesthesias). Sensitivity to pinprick, touch, pressure, cold, heat, and vibration are measured, often confirming the suspected diagnosis. Patients may be confused by the unusual sensations they are experiencing and unable to effectively describe or communicate their symptoms. This communication barrier may contribute to an inadequate physical examination. With improved skills in patient assessment and through enhanced communication with patients, nurses can make an important contribution to treatment outcomes in patients Copyright © 2004 by Elsevier Science (USA).


Nervous System -- Physiopathology, Neuralgia, Pain Measurement, Clinical Assessment Tools, Neural Conduction -- Evaluation, Neuralgia -- Classification, Neuralgia -- Diagnosis, Neurophysiology, Nursing Assessment, Patient History Taking, Physical Examination

Published Article/Book Citation

Pain Management Nursing, 5:4 (2004) pp.9-18.

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