Nerve Pain

Nerves are the superhighways of our bodies. Their job is to transmit, receive and monitor all information throughout our body. In other words, they are the wires that  ensure all parts of our bodies are functioning and properly communicating. To no surprise, nerve damage can be devastating.

Nerve pain (or neuropathic pain) results from injury to the part of the nerve that supplies sensation. Specifically, giving us the capability of sensing pain, pressure, touch, position and temperature. This explains why, in addition to pain, damage to the sensory nerves may cause other problems such as dropping objects (if nerves to the hands are injured) or poor balance (when nerves in the feet are affected). The distribution and range of symptoms depends on the location of the nerves, or “wires”, damaged and the region they supply. For example, a nerve in trapped in the back may cause pain radiating all the way to the foot, as well as numbness of the toes. While pain perception varies with each individual, common descriptors include: burning, tingling, pins and needles, prickling, stabbing, and jolts or lightning bolts.

Causes of nerve damage cut across a wide spectrum of injury mechanisms and disease states. Some of the more common causes are listed below:

Treatment depends on the cause. For example, your doctor may need to check to see if you have diabetes and treat you to regulate your blood sugar levels, if you present with burning feet. If your thumb is numb, you are dropping things and your hands are awakening you at night, you most likely have carpal tunnel syndrome – – caused by entrapment of a nerve in your wrist. Early cases of carpal tunnel syndrome may respond to physical therapy and splinting of the wrists. More advanced cases of nerve damage from carpal tunnel may require an ultrasound guided anti-inflammatory injection to quell the inflamed nerve and surrounding tendons, followed by aggressive physical therapy. Surgical decompression is another option in more severe carpal tunnel presentations.

So the goal of treatment is to address the underlying cause. That may include:

There are many alternative options to consider which can complement conventional treatment approaches. They include:

Author
Dr. Joseph Fortin, DO Dr. Joseph Fortin is the Medical Director at Spine Technology and Rehabilitation and a Clinical Professor at Indiana University School of Medicine.

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