Nerve pain sufferers are likely familiar with these classic and characteristic symptoms:
- Pins and Needles
Note: Of these, the 3 most common descriptors are “electric shock”, “burning”, “tingling”
In addition to these classic characterizations of nerve pain, there’s usually a concurrent presentation of the following:
- Protective Tension
- Altered movement patterns
Although all pain is connected and conducted through your nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves), not all pain is considered to be nerve pain.
Nerve pain refers to pain from injury, pathology, infection, and/or dysfunction of the nervous system itself.
For example, the pain you experience from a sprain/strain of your lower back may be conducted and experienced over a perfectly healthy nervous system. Whereas, sciatic nerve pain, is due to inflammation, pathology or excessive mechanical stress (compression, tension, slide) of the nervous system or of the sciatic nerve itself.
Nerve pain can then be divided into two categories:
- Central Nerve Pain (Brain and Spinal Cord), which covers very complex pain states. These require a multimodal approach with a variety of providers and adaptive strategies.
- Spinal Cord Trauma
- Multiple Sclerosis Pain
- Parkinson’s Pain
- Diabetic Neuropathy
- Post Hepatic Neuralgia
- Central Sensitization
- Peripheral Nerve Pain (nerve roots, nerves and associated connective tissue) – These are conditions which we frequently focus on here in our office, as they tend to respond very well to the type of conservative care we provide. This is done either as primary or adjunctive care.
- Radicular pain from a disc herniation or spinal arthritis (note: disc herniations are the most common reason for nerve root involvement)
- Sports injuries like burners and stingers or compressive injuries from blunt trauma
- Peripheral nerve entrapment from repetitive mechanical stress which is sport or work related
There are 156 different sites of peripheral nerve entrapment in the body!
The most common include:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome affecting the median nerve
- Cubital Tunnel Syndrome affecting the ulnar nerve
- Radial Tunnel Syndrome affecting the radial nerve
- Quadrilateral Space Syndrome affecting the axillary nerve of the shoulder
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) affecting the brachial plexus region
- Morton’s Neuroma affecting the common plantar digital nerves of the foot
- Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome affecting the tibial nerve
- Sciatic Nerve Entrapment at the hip muscles or hamstrings
Your nervous system is designed to move. The nerves compress, tension, and slide constantly as you move throughout the day. Your nervous system is continuously connected to just about every tissue in your body, therefore, every time you move a joint, a muscle, a tendon, a ligament, etc., you move your nerves and nervous system. However, there are many areas in the body where they are particularly vulnerable because of repetitive mechanical stress, postural strain, or trauma. These events can lead to formation of fibrotic tissue which occupies the space where a nerve passes and creates ischemia, inflammation, and disrupted motion of the nerve leading to nerve pain.
If you’re experiencing nerve pain, it’s important to be properly diagnosed for your best treatment outcomes. Nerve pain is your body letting you know that there’s injury or dysfunction within the nervous system itself. Early diagnosis and treatment not only leads to the best outcome for your nerve pain, but it also helps to rule in/out more rare forms of nerve pain such as malignancy, infection, or progressive and severe nerve damage.