A pinched nerve can cause tingling, stabbing or shooting pains in the arms or legs. These symptoms occur when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by the surrounding tissues (bones, tendons, muscle, cartilage). Pinched nerves may be caused by a herniated disc, result in sciatica, or cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
Neuropathic pain is a chronic pain typically associated with tissue injury. The nerve fibers are injured, damaged or dysfunctional and send incorrect pain signals to other parts of the body. The most common symptoms of neuropathic pain are tingling, numbness, burning, and shooting pains.
Robert was an up and coming internet marketer. Unfortunately, he did not sit at his computer correctly. He tended to slouch and didn’t sit in a supportive desk chair. Eventually, the muscles in his back deconditioned, and he herniated one of the discs in his back. This disc pressed on a nerve root that originated at this spinal cord, and this caused back pain, nerve pain down his leg, and weakness and tingling. Robert’s problem is just one of the ways that nerve pain occurs: injury to the disc pinches the nerve and causes pain.
Understanding Neuropathic Pain
To understand the basics of nerve pain, it helps to have a basic understanding of the nervous system. The brain is the originating source of the nervous system, and it interprets the signals coming from the nerves. From the brain, the spinal cord descends into your spinal column. It transmits signals from the periphery to the brain for processing and transmits orders from the brain for movement and function.
The nerves come off the spinal cord in a branching pattern, and at each level of the spine, many nerves branch out to serve the tissue in the periphery. When one of these nerves is pinched, injured, or otherwise malfunctions, it sends false signals of pain to the brain. This is the basis of all nerve pain.
At SoCal Pain Center, we see all types of pain conditions, and we are often referred conditions of neuropathic pain because of our expertise. We have physical therapists, pain management doctors, and pain psychologists to help you overcome this type of pain.
Many conditions can cause neuropathic pain. Trauma and mechanical injury are the most common cause. For instance, if you were in a car crash and damaged the nerves in your neck, you could experience pain in your arms. You should also consider that trauma can also affect bones, and bones can press on nerves to cause pain. This is especially true of nerves that run close to the spine, and something as simple as a fall or improper lifting can cause the bones or the discs between them to shift out of alignment and pinch a nerve.
Other mechanisms that can cause damage to nerves usually result from some sort of disease. Diabetes can damage nerves, and this can lead to peripheral neuropathy in the feet or, sometimes, in the hands. If you have a case of shingles, you can develop nerve damage in the area that the shingles manifested. Infection, certain medications, and kidney problems can also lead to nerve pain occurring anywhere in the body.
Pain is the most common symptom with nerve dysfunction, but it is often more specific than that. When a nerve is damaged, you will have sensitivity to the slightest touch all along the track that the nerve services. This sensitivity usually manifests as pain.
Sharp, stabbing, and burning pain is also felt along the nerve track, and you can sometimes feel pain far from where the nerve was originally damaged. You may have numbness, tingling, and weakness, as well, because the nerves for movement often run close to the nerves for feeling. In extreme cases, paralysis can occur.
The first line of treatment for nerve pain is usually medications. For instance, anti-seizure medications, such as gabapentin and Lyrica, can confuse the damaged nerves and lead to less pain. Some antidepressants, such as Cymbalta, also show promise in decreasing nerve pain, though the exact mechanism of action in these cases is unknown.
In cases of severe nerve damage, you may need a strong pain medication, such as a narcotic. You can also have injections of pain relievers directly into the area or a nerve block, which chemically blocks the signals from the damaged nerve. Physical therapy and nerve ablation can help to reduce pain. If you have trauma that caused the nerve pain, surgery to repair a broken vertebra or disc in the spine are can decrease pain to the periphery.
At SoCal Pain Center, we use a combination of medication, physical therapy, talk therapy, and surgery to treat nerve pain. On our staff, we have a dedicated pain management doctor who can prescribe medications for your condition, and we are also affiliated with surgeons who can employ injections or other surgery to ease your pain.
Give us a call today for a consultation to solve your nerve pain.