Neuropathic pain develops as a result of lesions or disease affecting the somatosensory nervous system either in the periphery or centrally. Examples of neuropathic pain include painful polyneuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia, trigeminal neuralgia, and post-stroke pain. Clinically, neuropathic pain is characterised by spontaneous ongoing or shooting pain and evoked amplified pain responses after noxious or non-noxious stimuli. Methods such as questionnaires for screening and assessment focus on the presence and quality of neuropathic pain. Basic research is enabling the identification of different pathophysiological mechanisms, and clinical assessment of symptoms and signs can help to determine which mechanisms are involved in specific neuropathic pain disorders. Management of neuropathic pain requires an interdisciplinary approach, centred around pharmacological treatment. A better understanding of neuropathic pain and, in particular, of the translation of pathophysiological mechanisms into sensory signs will lead to a more effective and specific mechanism-based treatment approach. Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.