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ASK THE EXPERT: Is My Spinal Nerve Damage Permanent?

April 5, 2017

QUICK ANATOMY REFRESHER

The body is made up of the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system connects our brain and spinal cord to the muscles and skin of our body using nerves. Nerves run through every body part we have, comprised of tens of thousands of fibers that allow us to generate movement and sense pain, temperature, and joint position. Think of it like a telephone cable – hundreds of fibers linked together transmitting signals to a specific location.
There are 3 Types of Nerves in the Body:

  • Autonomic: these nerves control the involuntary activities of the body including heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature regulation.
  • Motor: These nerves control the movements of the arms and legs by passing information from the brain through the spinal cord to the extremities.
  • Sensory:  These nerves relay information from the skin and muscles back to the spinal cord and brain.

Got it? 

NOW IMAGINE THERE IS AN INJURY TO THE NERVE –

This could be from a traumatic injury, an arthritic process, or surgical manipulation. Injury to the nerves essentially interrupts the sensory information sent from our body to the brain, or vice versa. This can lead to pain or movement disruption depending on where the nerve injury occurs.

Nerve injuries become increasingly more common as we age, and it’s even estimated that one out of every three people has some form of peripheral damage.

2 COMMON TYPES OF NERVE DAMAGE :
  1. Arthritic or traumatic compression of spinal nerves: anything that results in trauma to a nerve ending or compression of the spinal nerve can result in pain and nerve damage. Most patients complain of sciatic nerve pain running down the buttock, the back of the thigh, and into the lower leg.
  2. Nerve damage in the neck: patients may also cite pain between their shoulder blades, following a course down one or both arms toward the fingers due to nerve damage in their neck.
IS NERVE DAMAGE REVERSIBLE?

In general, nerve damage in the peripheral nervous system is fairly forgiving. The key to these problems is anti-inflammatory control with medications, appropriate diagnostic imaging to identify the source of the problem, and then a solution which means the patient’s expectations regarding relief of symptoms. It is possible for a nerve to grow and form new insulation, bring sensation and strength along with it.

The most important thing about nerve pain is early diagnosis.  The key is determining the cause of the nerve pain and the earliest, most appropriate treatment.  In doing so, one may avoid permanent nerve damage while potentially avoiding surgery.

If you think you may be suffering from nerve damage and would like a consultation, please contact one of our spinal specialists today! 

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