Understanding Nerve Pain and How It Differs From Other Types of Pain

The human body contains approximately 46 miles of nerves, and even the smallest problem along this extensive network can lead to significant pain. How this pain presents itself when it comes to nerve damage, however, can differ greatly from other types of pain.

Here at Physical Medicine Institute, Dr. B. Sam Tabibian and our team of physical medicine specialists understand the many different ways that pain can present itself. From localized pain due to trauma to neuropathic pain, here’s a look at how nerve pain stands out.

Not all pain is the same

When you stub your toe or cut your finger, pain is usually one of the first ways your body responds to the problem. This obvious and clear pain is driven by the sensory nerves that are directly affected by the trauma.

Pain that comes with the irritation or damage of a nerve, however, can present itself quite differently, as the pain can travel along the nerve pathway, which means you may feel symptoms in seemingly unrelated areas. The pain can range from strong jolts of electric-like shocks to throbbing or dull aches. It may also come with other symptoms like numbness and tingling.

Types of nerve pain

The most common type of nerve pain is peripheral neuropathy. To put some numbers to the problem, one in three adults in the United States experiences chronic pain, and of those, one in five experiences neuropathic pain.

To give you an idea of the types of problems that lead to neuropathic pain, let’s look at three of the more common drivers:

Diabetic neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy occurs in people with diabetes and develops because of poor circulation in the extremities, typically the lower limbs. With diabetic neuropathy, you may feel pain, numbness, and tingling in your feet and lower legs, even though there’s no readily visible wound or problem. This is because the nerves themselves are damaged.

Nerve compression

Another common form of nerve pain occurs when a nerve root along your spine is compressed, which can cause symptoms that radiate down your legs or arms, depending on the location of the compression.

Other forms of neuropathic pain

The spine isn’t the only place where nerve damage can cause radiating pain. For example, if you have multiple sclerosis, the coverings of your nerves are under attack, which can lead to overactive pain signaling. Another example is trigeminal neuralgia, which occurs when the trigeminal nerve in your brain is irritated, which can lead to debilitating facial pain on one side

Treating nerve pain

When you come in, we first analyze your pain by conducting extensive electrodiagnostic testing, including nerve conduction studies and electromyograms, which measure electrical signals in your muscles.

After we have a better idea of the source of your nerve pain, we address the problem using a wide range of techniques, including:

Our overriding goal is to help bring you relief so that we can restore your quality of life. To get started on treating your nerve pain, contact our office in Sherman Oaks, California, to schedule a consultation.

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