Nerve pain (Neuralgia) is pain that is caused by damage or disease that affects the power cables of the body. These power cables control all your bodies movement and communication. These pains comes from problems with signals from these power cables.
Nerve pain feels very different to other types of pain and it is also known as neuropathic pain or neuralgia. Abnormal sensations like burning, pins & needles and numbness are due to nerve injury.
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What Causes Nerve Pain?
Neuropathic pain is caused by a problem with your nerves(power cables) themselves, which sends pain messages to the brain. These impulses can vary from numbness (no impulse) or severe burning pain (very active impulses) that even the weight of linen on your foot will be too painful.
Most commonly occurs in the lower back, when nerves that run out from the spine.
The friction between the nerve, muscle, joint and ligament irritates the power cables and cause them to swell. This causes a sharp sudden burning or electrical shock type pain to run down the leg. The nerve is irritated at the point of irritation, but you feel pain all the way down the nerve.
One of the first signs of irritation is that the discomfort progresses to pain, leading to Pins & Needles as it gets worse. Initially the nerve pain only comes on occasionally and relieves after a few minutes. This type of sudden sharp pain comes & goes away, only only to be brought on when moving into a specific movement or position.
Generally it starts at the lower back and progressively moves downwards towards your butt and even into your toes. You will notice that it develops slowly and starts off being worse at night or early in the morning.
Nerve Compression (Pinched nerve)
This is the result of a nerve irritation that gets worse. During this phase the nerves that supply the power cables to the legs can become totally compressed and cause constant burning or sharp pains. Constant irritation on the tissue surrounding the nerve can leave you with pain that does not ease, no matter what you do.
When the nerve is totally compressed, it may cut off the signal from your leg to your brain ( Your toes sends the message, but it gets cut off at the point of compression). This will feel more like constant burning or sharp shooting pain. The pain will progress from pins & needles to numbness and eventually you won’t be able to control the movements in your hip, thigh, knee or foot. This pain tends to hang around a lot longer and stays for hours until (if) the compression is relieved.
The more the nerve compression, the more distorted the feeling will be, until the nerve is totally compressed and no message can go to the brain, then your skin goes numb. If the compression on the nerve is not relieved, there could be permanent damage to the nerves.
The nerve compression prevents feedback signals to your brain which causes clumsiness and weakness, which will make you feel like you have lost power. Muscle weakness is a very clear sign of nerve compression.
Numbness, tingling, weakness and inability to control your muscles are symptoms of nerve injury or disease. Injury to a nerve happens from a sudden event and symptoms start after the incident. Sometimes symptoms may develop over time (more than 1 month).
These could be due to nerve diseases, like a virus attacking the protective covering of the nerves(power cables) breaking down the nerve and cause the nerve to send abnormal pain impulses to the brain. Like being rubbed on the skin feels like a burning coal.
Other nerve related sensations include, unable to distinguish between different temperatures and ‘dead’ feeling on the skin.
Symptoms of nerve pain
- Burning pain
- Pins & Needles
- Sharp stabbing, shooting pain
- Electrical shock pain
- Unable to control movement
- Dead feeling over skin
- Unable to do movements
- Dead feeling over skin
- Unable to control bladder
- Pain when sitting on the toilet and bearing down
- Fainting/ Dizziness
- Skin colour changes
- Change in consciousness, or mental status
Test for nerve damage
If you suffer from any of these you should give us a call:
- Difficult to distinguish between Light touch (cotton wool stroked over the skin) and deep touch (compressing the skin in the area)
- Struggle to distinguish between Sharp touch (skin pierced with a toothpick) Blunt (press with the back of a pencil)
- Temperature: Difficult to distinguish between hot and cold temperatures.
- Pins & needles when touching something
- Numbness (“Dead” feeling over skin)
Diagnosis of nerve injury
This is a test where needles are inserted into the muscles that the nerve supplies. It measures the electrical activity produced by these muscles. The electrical activity of the nerve will be tested when you contract and relax your muscles. This test can determine if there is any nerve damage.
This test is performed by a Neurologist and is often referred to as ‘Nerve conduction studies’. It examines both the sensory (feeling) and the motor (ability to contract or relax muscles) function of the nerve. This test is able to show the weakening of the impulse traveling through the nerve. It is considered abnormal when the impulse travels slower, and weakens between 2 points (conduction velocity).
An ultrasound can visualize the structures and the space around the nerve as well as swelling of the tendons, muscles, joints etc. We will compare the uninjured side to the painful side.