Medical and pharmacologic management of upper extremity neuropathic pain syndromes.
Written from a neurologic and therapeutically conservative perspective, this review advocates fundamentally medical and pharmacologic management of upper extremity neuropathic pain syndromes, including chronic regional pain syndromes, formerly classified reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) and causalgia. Mandatory steps include, first, a prompt serious attempt to localize the nerve lesion whenever possible using complete, sophisticated neurologic examinations, then thoughtfully selected conventional neurophysiologic and radiologic tests. Strongly discouraged are promiscuous use of "RSD" to describe all neuropathic pains, and diagnostic reliance upon thermography and uncontrolled sympathetic blocks. Conservative multidisciplinary diagnostic and treatment teams should often possess a nucleus of neurologist and hand therapist, plus additional consultants including psychiatric. Every physician and therapist managing neuropathic pain must consider psychologic and wellness issues within their responsibilities. Prompt referral to an experienced surgeon is crucial for decompression or repair of relevant, significant, objectively proven (ideally neurophysiologically) nerve and root lesions. Ambiguous professional colloquialisms, "central pain" and "central sensitization," unfortunately provide value-laden pretexts for premature invasive treatments, and animate the truly dreadful concept "central RSD". Various classes of conventional oral non-narcotic adjuvant analgesics are reviewed, and the inevitability of their empiric, non-formulaic administration. No patient-specific, rationally-identifiable molecular receptor/switch can be deduced clinically or tripped mechanistically to terminate chronic pain. Two promising new non-narcotic centrally-active medications, gabapentin and tramadol, are highlighted as harbingers of future progress. The neglected subtle art of prescription writing is stressed, particularly for medication-sensitive patients. Medical cost containment should promote critical, long overdue outcomes studies comparing conservative and invasive pain treatments.
Published In/Presented At
Mackin G. A. (1997). Medical and pharmacologic management of upper extremity neuropathic pain syndromes. Journal of hand therapy : official journal of the American Society of Hand Therapists, 10(2), 96–109. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0894-1130(97)80064-6
Medicine and Health Sciences
Department of Medicine