Nerve Pain

Nerve Pain

Article by John Miller

Nerve Pain

What is Nerve Pain?

Nerve pain is pain that is caused by damage or disease that affects the nervous system of the body. It is also known as neuropathic pain or neuralgia. Nerve pain is a pain that comes from problems with signals from the nerves. It is different from the standard type of pain that is due to an injury. Most post-acute injury pain is known as nociceptive pain.

What Causes Nerve Pain?

Neuropathic pain is a problem with your nerves themselves, which sends pain messages to the brain.

Nerve Pain Symptoms

nerve-pain

Nerve pain is often described as burning, stabbing, shooting, aching, or like an electric shock.

What Causes Nerve Pain?

Various conditions can affect your nerves and cause nerve pain. Familiar sources of nerve pain include:

  • Shingles (post-herpetic neuralgia).
  • Trigeminal neuralgia.
  • Diabetic neuropathy.
  • Phantom-limb pain following an amputation.
  • Cancer.
  • Multiple sclerosis.
  • Chemotherapy.
  • HIV infection.
  • Alcoholism.
  • Other nerve disorders.

Nerve Pain & Nociceptive Pain

You can suffer both nerve pain and nociceptive pain simultaneously. The same condition can cause both pain types.

Nerve Pain Treatment

Traditional painkillers such as paracetamol and anti-inflammatories are less likely to assist neurogenic pain.  However, other types of medicines often work well to ease the pain. Nerve pain is usually reduced by anti-depressant or anti-epileptic medication. Please ask your doctor for more advice.

Tens Machine

IMPORTANT

Use only as directed. A TENS machine and EMS machine are electronic medical devices.  Always read the label and instruction manual. A TENS machine may assist you in modest short-term pain relief. Consult your doctor/healthcare professional before use and if symptoms persist.

More info:

What is Pain?

What is a Pinched Nerve?

Home Pain Relief Machines

What is a TENS machine?

Pain FAQs

What Causes Arm Pain?

Arm pain and injuries are widespread. Arm pain can occur as a result of either sudden, traumatic or repetitive overuse. The causes can be related to sports injuries, work injuries or simply everyday arm use.

Arm pain can be a local injury, musculoskeletal injury or could even be referred from nerves in your neck (cervical radiculopathy). This can result in neck-arm pain.

Causes of Arm Pain by Region

Causes of Arm Pain by Structure

Neck-related Arm Pain

Shoulder-related Arm Pain

Elbow-related Arm Pain

Wrist-related Arm Pain

Hand-related Arm Pain

Muscle-related Arm Pain

Other Sources of Arm Pain

Common Causes of Arm Pain

The most common sources of arm pain include shoulder painwrist pain and elbow pain.

Referred Arm Pain

As mentioned earlier, arm pain can be referred to from another source. Cervical radiculopathy is a common source of referred arm pain. Cervical radiculopathy will not respond to treatment where you feel the arm pain. However, it will respond positively to treatment at the source of the injury (e.g. your neck joints).

Professional assessment from a health practitioner skilled in diagnosing both spinal-origin and local-origin (muscle and joint) injuries (e.g. your physiotherapist) is recommended to ensure an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment directed at the arm pain source.

Arm Pain has Diverse Causes.

The causes of your arm pain can be extensive and varied. Due to this diversity, your arm pain should be assessed by a suitably qualified health practitioner to attain an accurate diagnosis, treatment plan and implementation specific to your arm pain.

What Arm Pain is Associated with a Heart Attack?

Left-arm pain can be an early sign of a life-threatening cardiac issue. Based on this, a professional medical assessment that involves an accurate history, symptom analysis, physical examination and diagnostic tests to exclude a potential heart attack is important to exclude this potentially life-threatening source of arm pain.

For more information, please consult with your health practitioner, call an ambulance on 000, or visit a hospital emergency department to put your mind at ease.

Good News. Most Arm Pain is NOT Life-Threatening.

Luckily, life-threatening arm pain is far less likely than a local musculoskeletal injury. Arm pain caused by a localised arm muscle, tendon or joint injury should be assessed and confirmed by your health practitioner before commencing treatment.

Arm Pain Prognosis

The good news is that arm pain, and injury will normally respond very favourably to medical or physiotherapy intervention when early professional assessment and treatment is sought. Please do not delay in consulting your healthcare practitioner if you experience arm pain.

Common Arm Pain Treatments

With accurate assessment and early treatment, most arm injuries respond extremely quickly to physiotherapy or medical care, allowing you to resume pain-free and normal activities of daily living quickly.

Please ask your physiotherapist for their professional treatment advice.

Pain

Pain is the built-in alarm that informs you something is wrong!

Pain is your body's way of sending a warning to your brain. Your spinal cord and nerves provide the pathway for messages to travel to and from your brain and the other parts of your body. Pain travels along these nerve pathways as electrical signals to your brain for interpretation.

Receptor nerve cells in and beneath your skin sense heat, cold, light, touch, pressure, and pain. You have thousands of these receptor cells. Most cells sense pain. When there is an injury to your body, these tiny cells send messages along nerves into your spinal cord and then up to your brain.

In general, pain receptors are classified according to their location.

Receptors that respond to injury or noxious stimuli are termed nociceptors and are sensitive to thermal (heat), electrical, mechanical, chemical and painful stimuli. Each nociceptor is connected to a nerve that transmits an electrical impulse along its length towards the spinal cord and then, ultimately, your brain.

It is your brain that informs you whether or not you are experiencing pain. Plus, your pain can plays tricks - especially when you suffer chronic pain.

Pain messages travel slower than other nerve stimulation.

Nerves can also be categorised according to their diameter (width) and whether a myelin sheath is present.

Three types of nerves are concerned with the transmission of pain:

A-beta fibres, which have a large diameter and are myelinated
A-delta fibres, which has a small diameter and also have myelinated sheaths.
C fibres have small diameters and are non-myelinated (slowing their conduction rate) and are generally involved with the transmission of dull, aching sensations.

Nerves with large diameters conduct impulses faster than those with a small diameter. The presence of a myelin sheath also speeds up the nerve conduction rate.

One method of easing your pain is to provide your nervous system with high speed "good feelings" such as rubbing your injured area. This is the same principle that a tens machine (pain-relieving machine) utilises to provide pain relief.

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Article by John Miller

Nerve Pain

Nerve pain is pain caused by damage or disease that affects the nervous system of the body. It is also known as neuropathic pain or neuralgia. Nerve pain is a pain that comes from problems with signals from the nerves. It is different to the typical type of pain that is due to an injury. It is known as nociceptive pain.

What Causes Nerve Pain?

nerve pain

A problem with your nerves themselves, which sends pain messages to the brain, causes neuropathic pain.

What Are Nerve Pain Symptoms?

Nerve pain is often described as burning, stabbing, shooting, aching, or like an electric shock.

What Causes Nerve Pain?

Various conditions can affect your nerves and cause nerve pain. Familiar sources of nerve pain include:

  • Shingles (post-herpetic neuralgia).
  • Trigeminal neuralgia.
  • Diabetic neuropathy.
  • Phantom limb pain (post-amputation).
  • Cancer.
  • Multiple sclerosis.
  • Chemotherapy.
  • HIV infection.
  • Alcoholism.
  • Other nerve disorders.

Nerve Pain & Nociceptive Pain

You can suffer both nerve pain and nociceptive pain simultaneously. The same condition can cause both pain types.

Nerve Pain Treatment

Nerve pain is less likely than nociceptive pain to be helped by traditional painkillers. Paracetamol and anti-inflammatories seem less effective.  However, other types of medicines often work well to ease the pain. Nerve pain is often relieved by anti-depressant or anti-epileptic medication. Please ask your doctor for more advice.

Pain Links

Pain & Injury

Tens Machine

What is a TENS Machine?

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Chronic Pain

Recent research has helped to shed more light on the changes that occur in your body with chronic pain.

What is Normal ‘Protective’ Pain?

Normally pain is good. It informs you about potential or actual damage to your body’s tissues. Nociceptor nerve cells in the tissues of your body, react to strong stimuli such as pressure, heat, cold or chemicals. These nociceptors send a message to the spinal cord, which then forward another message up to the brain. Your brain then processes these messages and produces a coordinated response to escape whatever is causing the tissue damage.

What is ‘Pathological’ Pain?

Research has shown that changes occur in your body at all levels of pain processing. These changes include:

Changes at the Injury Site

At the site of the injury, your peripheral nerve becomes much more easily excitable.  This means that it takes far less of a stimulus to cause it fire off. In some cases, even a gentle brush against the skin is enough to fire off the pain pathway. Unfortunately it is not just the damaged nerves that become more excitable, but also the neighbouring nerves, which means even further amplification of the nerve messages. Some nerves can also start firing off spontaneously, which means that they do not need a stimulus to fire off.

Changes in your Spinal Cord

In the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, changes occur in some of the cells that receive the nociceptor messages. These changes lead to greater sensitivity to the spontaneous nociceptor messages mentioned previously. Changes can also occur in some cells that leads to a ‘memory’ developing between two cells, which leads to an amplified response in the neighbouring cell.

Changes in your Brain

Usually, your brain can decrease the level of pain you experience through releasing natural opioid hormones. When you suffer chronic pain, changes occur in the midbrain which actually increase the nociceptive messages. This means you’ll perceive even more pain. Chronic pain messages stimulate parts of the brain involved in emotion, fear and feelings. This may help explain why conditions such as depression, sleep disorders and pain catastrophising are linked in with chronic pain. We also know that chronic pain leads to atrophy or ‘shrinking’ of parts of the cortex and midbrain. Brain-stimulating activities may help to limit this ageing.

Do You Need More Information about Chronic Pain?

If you need more information about your pain or how to best manage your chronic pain, please consult the advice of your physiotherapist. Your physiotherapist is an highly trained at helping you to understand and reverse the changes that occur with chronic pain.

Article by John Miller

What Causes Pins & Needles?

What is Paraesthesia?

A moderately pinched nerve is the most common cause of "pins and needles". Pins and needles are referred to as "paraesthesia" in the medical community. Did you know that feeling "pins and needles" can be a worse sign than having pain in your arm or leg? The reason is that you can't even feel pain anymore when you significantly squash the nerve.

Even worse than "pins and needles" are "numbness" or "anaesthesia", which is a total lack of sensation. You will experience anaesthesia when there is severe nerve compression. Anaesthesia or numbness that persists for more than a few hours can signify permanent nerve compression. Please seek prompt medical attention to prevent the nerve from permanent damage and the muscles it innervates to weaken drastically.

The majority of pinched nerves and nerve compressions are only transient and quickly reversed with early treatment. However, neglect can lead to permanent nerve compression injuries, which may never recover.

Common Causes of Pinched Nerves

The most common forms of nerve compression are in the spinal joints, where either a disc bulge or a bony arthritic spur can irritate and compress the nerve. Compressions can also occur as the nerve passes through or around muscles. Your physiotherapist will know where to look.

How Can You Fix "Pins and Needles"?

If you know of someone who is experiencing chronic or permanent "pins and needles", "numbness", or "muscle weakness", please encourage them to seek urgent professional advice. The secret to quick success is the correct diagnosis. A highly trained health practitioner such as your physiotherapist or doctor is your best port of call.

More info

What is a TENS Machine?

TENS is an abbreviation of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.

What is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation?

Transcutaneous means "across the skin". In simple terms, a tens machine stimulates your nerves via an electrical current through your skin. A TENS machine is an electronic medical device. A TENS machine may assist you in modest short-term pain relief.

The use of a TENS machine should be as one part of a pain management program under the guidance of your doctor or healthcare practitioner. Please consult your healthcare practitioner before using a TENS machine.

How Does a TENS Machine Provide Short-Term Pain Relief?

what is a tens machine?

Researchers believe that TENS controls pain in one of two ways:

Sensory Level Stimulation - The Gate Control theory of pain means that the electrical input of the TENS machine interferes with the transmission of pain signals by blocking the neural "gate" through which the pain travels.

Motor Level Stimulation - The goal of motor level stimulation is to cause the release of the body's opiate-like substances to achieve pain relief.

IMPORTANT

Use your TENS machine only as directed. A TENS machine and an EMS machine are electronic medical devices.  Always read the label and instruction manual. A TENS machine may assist you in modest short-term pain relief. Consult your doctor/healthcare professional before use and if symptoms persist.

TENS Machine FAQs

Further Reading

Johnson M. 2014, Walsh DM et al. 2009, Nnoaham KE, Kumbang J. 2008, Watson 2008, Andrews JR et al. 2004