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Common Causes of Nerve Pain


person with nerve or sciatic pain in back, butt, leg

Nerve pain, also known as neuropathic pain, can be a challenging condition to manage. It is characterized by a sharp, shooting, or burning sensation that can affect various parts of the body. In this blog post, we will explore the common causes of nerve pain and provide insights into finding relief. Let's delve into the world of nerve pain and discover strategies to alleviate it.


picture of spine and nerves throughout upper body

A Quick Lesson In Neuroanatomy


To understand the common causes of nerve pain, it's helpful to have a basic understanding of nerve anatomy. Nerves are essential parts of our body's communication system, carrying messages between the brain, spinal cord, and the rest of the body. Here's a brief overview of nerve anatomy:

  1. Nerve Cells (Neurons): Nerve cells, also known as neurons, are the building blocks of the nervous system. They are responsible for transmitting electrical signals, called nerve impulses, throughout the body. Neurons have a unique structure with dendrites that receive signals, an axon that carries signals away, and terminal branches that connect with other cells.

  2. Nerve Fibers: Nerve fibers are long, slender structures that make up the axons of neurons. They act as the highways for transmitting nerve impulses. Nerve fibers can be classified into two types: sensory fibers that carry signals from the body to the brain, and motor fibers that carry signals from the brain to the muscles, enabling movement.

  3. Nerve Bundles and Nerves: Multiple nerve fibers come together to form nerve bundles, which are surrounded by connective tissue for protection. These nerve bundles are further organized into nerves, which are larger structures responsible for transmitting signals to and from specific regions of the body. Nerves can be found throughout the body, connecting various organs, muscles, and tissues.

  4. Peripheral Nervous System and Central Nervous System: The nervous system is divided into two main parts: the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and the central nervous system (CNS). The PNS includes all the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, while the CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord. The PNS carries information to and from the CNS, allowing for communication and coordination between different parts of the body.

Nerve pain, also known as neuropathic pain, can occur when there is damage or dysfunction to the nerves. Common causes of nerve pain include conditions like peripheral neuropathy, herniated discs, nerve entrapment syndromes (such as carpal tunnel syndrome), and nerve compression.


Common Causes of Nerve Pain


1. Nerve Compression:

Nerve compression occurs when a nerve is compressed or pinched, leading to pain and other uncomfortable sensations. Conditions such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or sciatica can result in nerve compression. Identifying and addressing the underlying cause of nerve compression is essential for finding relief.


2. Peripheral Neuropathy:

Peripheral neuropathy refers to nerve damage that occurs outside the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by various factors, including diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, certain medications, infections, or autoimmune disorders. Managing the underlying condition and incorporating nerve-specific treatments, such as physical therapy, can help alleviate peripheral neuropathy pain.


3. Nerve Injuries:

Injuries to the nerves, such as those resulting from accidents, falls, or sports-related incidents, can lead to nerve pain. These injuries can disrupt the normal functioning of the nerves and result in persistent pain or abnormal sensations. Seeking prompt medical attention and undergoing appropriate rehabilitation can facilitate nerve healing and minimize pain.


4. Postherpetic Neuralgia:

Postherpetic neuralgia is a type of nerve pain that occurs after an outbreak of shingles. The varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox, can reactivate and cause shingles. The pain associated with postherpetic neuralgia can be severe and long-lasting. Treatments such as antiviral medications, pain management techniques, and physical therapy can help manage the pain and promote healing.


5. Trapped Nerves:

Nerves can become trapped or compressed due to repetitive motions, poor posture, or overuse injuries. This can result in localized pain and discomfort. Identifying and modifying activities that contribute to nerve trapping, along with appropriate therapies like physical therapy, can alleviate the pain and prevent future occurrences.


When to Seek Professional Help


If you experience persistent or worsening nerve pain, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional. They can assess your symptoms, identify the underlying cause of your nerve pain, and develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your needs.


Treatment Options


Treatment for nerve pain may involve a combination of approaches. These may include medications, physical therapy, nerve blocks, acupuncture, and lifestyle modifications. Physical therapy plays a crucial role in nerve pain management by improving strength, flexibility, and overall function, as well as addressing any underlying musculoskeletal issues (such as a tight muscle, disc herniation, etc) that may contribute to the pain.


Understanding the common causes of nerve pain empowers you to take an active role in managing your condition. If you're experiencing persistent or debilitating nerve pain, reach out to our team at Nashville Physical Therapy & Performance. We specialize in providing comprehensive care and personalized treatment plans to help you find relief from nerve pain and improve your quality of life.


References

- Mayo Clinic. (2021). Peripheral Neuropathy. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-neuropathy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352061

- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2019). Shingles: Hope Through Research. Retrieved from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Hope-Through-Research/Shingles-Hope-Through-Research

- Pain. (2016). Neuropathic Pain. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4869383/

- Wiffen, P. J., Derry, S., Moore, R. A., Kalso, E. A., & McQuay, H. J. (2013). Carbamazepine for chronic neuropathic pain and fibromyalgia in adults. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 1(1), CD005451. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005451.pub2

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