nerve pain back

Nerve Pain in the Back: Your Path to a Pain-Free Life

Nerve pain in the back can be debilitating—stealing your joy and making living active and well nearly impossible. Even simple tasks become challenging.

As a chiropractor, I often see patients struggling with various types of back pain, and I can say that nerve-related issues are some of the worst kinds of pain to have. But I have some hopeful news for you today. Many causes can be treated without surgery or potentially dangerous medications.

What is Nerve Pain in the Back?

Nerve pain, or neuropathic pain, occurs when nerves are damaged or irritated. In this case, the nerves in question are in the spine. Many people are surprised to learn this since they feel this pain on the left or right side, not the spine.

But that’s because these large nerves radiate the sensation out from the center and down the body.

As a chiropractor, I can deduce where the nerve irritation is occurring in the spine based on the location of the nerve pain symptoms—from behind your shoulder down to the back of your thigh.

I’m able to do this because the nerves that begin in your spinal column take a specific path through the human body—carrying the pain with them.

Symptoms of Nerve Pain in the Back

You might experience nerve pain of the back as:

  • Burning
  • Sharp
  • Dull persistent ache
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Radiating
  • Muscle weakness

It’s usually only on one side and often comes and goes as you change positions.

For example, you might feel a sudden sharp pain in the mid-back. It catches you off guard, takes your breath away, and forces you to recoil from whatever you were doing.

A moment later, it passes. But now you’re afraid to move because it hurts. That’s no way to live!

And sadly, this lack of movement makes it worse over time.

The constant worry about the pain may also impact your mental health and sense of well-being. And in severe cases, the pain is so bad it physically keeps you from moving. You may not be able to sit, bend, or stand up straight.

You may also want to check out Peripheral Nerve Pain Symptoms: Your Body’s Alarm System.

What Causes Nerve Pain Back?

Common causes of back nerve pain include herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and pinching or tightness of the sciatic nerve.

In each of these, a nerve is trapped between the spinal discs. When this happens, the bone is allowed to rub/squeeze the nerve.

Herniated (ruptured) discs can happen anywhere along the spine. Discs are cushions between each back bone to protect your spinal nerves and the bones from damage. But these discs can become compressed like a water balloon in your hand. This allows the bones to get too close to each other, leading to structural issues. If that disc is squeezed hard enough, it bursts. It’s not quite as dramatic a burst as a water balloon. But it does slowly leak an irritating fluid onto the nerve.

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal column. It often happens in the neck, leading to nerve pain behind the shoulder as well as upper back nerve pain.

When the lower spinal column (the lumbar spine) narrows, it puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, leading to Sciatica. The sciatic nerve nerve runs from the lower back, down each hip and into the back of your thigh. So, you may feel the pain in one or all three places.

An estimated 40% of people will experience sciatic nerve pain in the lower back during their lifetime.

If one of these three causes contributes to your nerve pain, you don’t have to just live with it. This is a mechanical problem in the back.

When the structural issue is correctable with an adjustment, I can release the nerve and allow the nerve to heal. With proper care and a periodic adjustment you can maintain the pain relief long-term.

It’s essential to seek professional help to determine whether a spinal adjustment could help your nerve pain in the back.

To find out, Schedule your initial consultation for a full evaluation and first treatment. 

Diagnosis

To diagnose nerve pain in the back, a thorough medical history and physical examination are necessary. Diagnostic tests like MRI, CT scans, and X-rays can help pinpoint precisely where the nerve is trapped.

But chiropractors also train for years. As part of our education, we learn how to feel the irregularities in the spine before correcting them.

Treatment Options

Depending on the cause and severity, you may need a combination of therapies or treatments. Your chiropractor can work with your medical professional team to help you get the best results.

Non-Surgical Treatments

  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, and prescription medications can help manage the pain.
  • Home Exercise Program: Strengthening and stretching exercises can alleviate pain and improve mobility. Your chiropractor will show you how to perform exercises to strengthen the supporting muscloskelatal system and support nerve health.
  • Chiropractic Care: Regular adjustments can relieve nerve pain in the back and improve spinal alignment.
  • Acupuncture: This ancient practice can provide short-term relief for many patients, giving the nerve time to heal.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Maintaining a healthy weight and staying active can significantly reduce back pain. If you have a desk job that keeps you sedentary, we can work with you on strategies to support more movement throughout the day.

Surgical Treatments

While not the first choice for most patients, surgical options are available through an orthopaedist. We can work with your doctor to attempt less invasive treatment before you decide to go under the knife. We also become an important part of your post-surgical rehabilitation and pain-free maintenance plan.

Some surgeries your doctor might consider include:

  • Discectomy: Removing the disc’s herniated part can relieve nerve pressure.
  • Laminectomy: Removing part of the vertebra can relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.
  • Spinal Fusion: This surgery joins two or more vertebrae together to provide stability.

Pain Management Strategies

Managing nerve pain in the back involves both at-home and professional strategies.

At-Home Pain Relief Methods

  • Heat and Ice Therapy: Alternating between heat and ice can reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers: These can help manage mild to moderate pain.
  • Gentle Stretching and Exercise: Regular movement can keep your back flexible and reduce pain.

Professional Pain Management Techniques

  • Epidural Steroid Injections: These can reduce inflammation around the nerves.
  • Nerve Blocks: Injecting anesthetics near the nerves can provide temporary relief.
  • Radiofrequency Ablation: Burning the nerves to relieve back pain can provide long-term relief.
  • Acupuncture: Increases blood flow and can encourage the activation of your body’s natural painkillers and healing processes.

Preventing Nerve Pain

Prevention is better than cure. Whether you’ve recently recovered from back nerve pain or you’re trying to reverse the pain before it gets worse, here are some tips to keep your back healthy and pain-free.

Ergonomic Tips for Daily Activities

  • Proper Lifting Techniques: Lift with your legs, not your back. To learn more, check out our article on lifting form.
  • Correct Posture: Maintain a neutral spine while sitting and standing.
  • Ergonomic Office Setups: Ensure your workstation supports good posture, ideally with a sit and stand option.

We take time to show patients what proper form looks like and help them achieve it. Our goal is to see patients live pain-free through comprehensive pain management strategies.

Regular Exercise and Stretching

  • Strengthening Exercises: Focus on your core and back muscles.
  • Flexibility Exercises: Stretching can prevent tightness and pain.
  • Walking: If you are able, walking more around the house, neighborhood, or office can promote better posture. You engage multiple core muscles with this one action, which can alleviate pressure on the spinal discs.
  • Balance: Exercise methodologies, such as those found in yoga and Pilates, promote balance and stability.

Healthy Lifestyle Habits

  • Balanced Diet: Proper nutrition supports overall health. Of course, a balanced diet is important, but some nutrients have moderate to strong evidence and are worth a try. On the whole food side, these include dark leafy greens and green vegetables, berries, sweet potatoes, turmeric, avocado, and quinoa. These foods provide key nutrients like B vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and known anti-inflammatory compounds.
  • Adequate Sleep: Good sleep is essential for recovery and pain management. Adjust your pillows and positions to ensure your sleeping style doesn’t inadvertently cause structural issues.
  • Stress Management: Techniques like mindfulness and meditation can reduce stress and pain.

Living with Nerve Pain

Coping with chronic pain requires a multi-faceted approach.

  • Mindfulness and Meditation: These can help manage pain and improve mental well-being.
  • Support Groups and Counseling: Connecting with others who understand your pain can provide emotional support.
  • Pain Management Programs: Professional programs can offer comprehensive pain management plans.
  • Functional Medicine / Integrative Care: A chiropractor is an important part of your functional medicine team since we offer less invasive and effective treatments for back pain.
  • Medical Care: If less invasive treatments do not provide sufficient relief, medical doctors can prescribe medications and surgical treatment.

Exercises for Sciatic Nerve Back Pain

Exercises play a crucial role in managing sciatic nerve pain in the back. Here are some effective exercises:

  • Piriformis Stretch: This can relieve back nerve pain down the leg.
  • Hamstring Stretch: Keeping your hamstrings flexible can reduce lower back pain.
  • Pelvic Tilts: These strengthen your core and lower back muscles and help with sciatic nerve pain in the back

You Can Live Pain-Free

Nerve pain in the back can be managed effectively with the right approach. From professional treatments to at-home care, there are many ways to find relief. Remember, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and seeking professional help when needed are crucial steps in managing and preventing back pain. To learn how to live without pain, schedule your initial consultation for a full evaluation and first treatment. 

Peripheral Nerve Pain Symptoms: Your Body’s Alarm System

peripheral nerve pain symptoms

Are you often troubled by inexplicable pain in your extremities? It might be peripheral nerve pain symptoms you’re experiencing. This post explains these signs of nerve damage— both common and mysterious, mild and severe.

We’ll examine how their progression may disrupt your daily life and what you can do about it.

What Are Peripheral Nerve Pain Symptoms?

Peripheral nerve pain, or neuropathy, affects the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. It can manifest in numerous ways, depending on which nerves are involved. Here are some symptoms of neuropathy you should never ignore.

  • Tingling or numbness
  • Sharp, jabbing, throbbing, or burning pain
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch

You probably already know about these common symptoms. But did you know that as the condition progresses, some lesser-known symptoms manifest in ways you might not expect. And those are the ones that deserve a much closer look.

What kind of nerve pain do you have? Take the quiz to find out if you have peripheral neuropathy and what type of doctor you should see to treat it.

Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms in Legs and Feet

If you find walking or maintaining balance increasingly difficult, it might be due to peripheral neuropathy symptoms in legs. You might feel like you’re wearing a tight sock, even barefoot, walking on gravel. Ouch!

That’s because, in some cases, affected areas may swell. The peripheral neuropathy symptoms of swelling can make your limbs feel heavy and uncomfortable, complicating simple tasks like climbing stairs, getting up from a chair, or dressing.

This can be made worse by venous insufficiency. This condition allows blood and fluid to pool in the legs, further compressing and inflaming nerves.

Veins work against gravity to take expended blood back to the heart. And since they’re furthest from the heart, they don’t have the luxury of a powerful heartbeat to help that blood move up.

If those veins are unhealthy and weak, gravity will win that battle over time.

When peripheral nerve pain symptoms strike in the legs, they can significantly impact your mobility and independence. Some of the more advanced symptoms in the legs and feet include:

  • Persistent numbness, making it difficult to sense the ground while walking
  • A burning or freezing sensation, complicating comfortable resting or sleeping positions
  • Muscle weakness that may cause stumbles or falls

Additional reading we think you’ll like: How Chiropractors Help Manage Chronic Pain

Peripheral Nerve Pain Symptoms in Hands

Experiencing discomfort in your hands can be more than just an annoyance. It can disrupt your daily activities and lessen your quality of life. 

Peripheral nerve pain symptoms in the hands often manifest as:

  • Numbness or tingling, similar to the sensation of wearing invisible gloves made of the itchiest wool you can imagine
  • Sharp pains that may feel like electric shocks, especially when touching objects
  • Loss of dexterity, making tasks like buttoning a shirt or hitting the right letter keys on your phone frustrating.

You might drop objects you think you have a good grip on. Or you struggle to pick up smaller objects. If you’ve ever sewn a button and dropped the needle onto a solid surface. It can be like trying to pick that tiny thing up—except with progressively larger objects.

Peripheral Nerve Pain Symptoms in Hands

Neuropathy in the Shoulder and Upper Arm

Shoulder neuropathy can be particularly debilitating due to this joint’s critical role in many movements. When experiencing peripheral nerve pain symptoms in the shoulder, you might encounter:

  • Persistent aching or sharp pain that radiates down the arm, affecting mobility and strength.
  • Tingling or numbness that extends from the shoulder to the hands, often worsening with movements such as reaching or lifting.
  • Muscle weakness in the shoulder area, making it difficult to perform overhead activities or carry objects.

With these signs of nerve damage, trying to grab an item off a high shelf becomes more than precarious. It can become dangerous, especially if that item is heavy.

It’s easy to see why you might think the nerve problem is in your shoulder and upper arm. But that’s not always the case.

Nerve pain can be caused by a trapped nerve in the cervical spine (neck), especially at the base of your shoulder blade. Spinal stenosis, herniated disc, or an injury may have caused it.

You might also have nerves trapped by tendons, cartilage, or other surrounding tissues in the shoulder. Finding where the nerve pain originates is critical to experiencing fast relief so you can get back to living your life.

Additional reading we think you’ll like: Preventing Sports Injuries

Peripheral Nerve Pain Symptoms at Night

Dealing with peripheral nerve pain symptoms can be particularly challenging during the nighttime. When the lights go out, many individuals find their symptoms intensify, leading to a significant impact on sleep quality. Have you ever experienced any of these?

  • Increased pain sensitivity, where even light bed sheets can feel unbearably heavy on the legs or feet.
  • Sudden shocks of pain or burning sensations that disrupt your ability to fall and stay asleep.
  • Restlessness due to discomfort, leading to frequent waking and difficulty returning to sleep.

You know how vital sleep is to your health and happiness. Addressing nighttime symptoms is crucial for overall well-being, as quality sleep is foundational to health and recovery.

Do your nerve pain symptoms indicate that you have peripheral neuropathy?


Common Causes of Peripheral Nerve Pain

Peripheral nerve pain can stem from various conditions. We’ve also thrown in some contributing risk factors because it’s vital to consider where you have the power to lower your risks.

  • Diabetes: This is a leading cause of the most severe cases of neuropathy in the U.S. High blood sugar levels can severely damage nerves, leading to peripheral neuropathy symptoms from diabetes. Nerve pain caused by diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy.
  • Physical injury: Traumas or injuries can directly harm your nerves, resulting in peripheral nerve damage signs and symptoms.
  • Infections: Certain infections can attack your nerves, resulting in pain and swelling.
  • Autoimmune diseases: Some autoimmune diseases attack the nerve’s protective sheath, exposing it.
  • Nerve entrapment: The nerve becomes trapped inside a narrowed or irregular bodily structure, often in the spine. Poor posture, compounding spinal micro-injuries, weakening spinal discs (backbone cushions), bad lifting form, and even over-exercise can lead to these trapped nerves.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle: Prolonged sitting can weaken the blood vessels in the legs, leading to insufficient blood flow. Lack of regular exercise can cause structural compensations, resulting in more nerve entrapment in the spine.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies: B vitamins, in particular, are crucial for nerve health, especially B12, which many people on stricter plant-based diets struggle to get enough of.

Understanding these signs and potential causes are crucial for seeking timely treatment and preventing further nerve deterioration. Additionally, peripheral neuropathy symptoms and anxiety often go hand-in-hand, as the discomfort and unpredictability of symptoms can lead to a worsening sense of mental well-being.

Would chiropractic of acupuncture do more for your type of nerve pain? Take the quiz to find out.

Treatment Options

While there’s no cure for some types of neuropathy, there are treatments available that can help manage symptoms. Interventions can significantly reduce pain and the symptoms’ impacts on daily life. Peripheral neuropathy pain treatment often includes:

  • Medications to relieve pain (over-the-counter and/or prescriptions)
  • Therapies like physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, or acupuncture
  • Lifestyle changes to manage underlying conditions and improve vascular and neuromuscular health, like exercise plans, nutrition, and regular visits to your chiropractor for re-assessment and ongoing care
  • Functional assessments and improvement plans. This might include learning better form when lifting heavy objects, working out at the gym, or performing repetitive work tasks.

The chiropractors at Truspine believe in the value of education. They will take time to show you how to improve your form during daily activities to reduce pain and worsening symptoms.

Is Neuropathy Reversible?

It can be. And even when it’s not, you absolutely can slow its progression to lessen pain, reduce pain medicine dependence, and maintain your ability to function and perform daily activities longer.

When Is Nerve Pain Reversible

  • Early Detection: If neuropathy is caught early, and the cause is something that can be treated or managed (like nutritional deficiencies, certain medications, or prolonged sitting), there’s a chance to halt or even reverse nerve damage when you take action as soon as you start feeling those tingles.
  • Controlling or Reversing Underlying Conditions: In cases where neuropathy is caused by manageable conditions such as diabetes or thyroid disorders, effectively controlling these conditions can potentially stabilize or improve nerve function. Even some autoimmune conditions can be managed to reduce their damage to nerves.

When Neuropathy May Not Be Reversible

  • Some Chronic Conditions: For chronic conditions like advanced diabetes or long-term alcohol abuse, the nerve damage may be permanent. In these cases, treatment focuses on managing symptoms and preventing further damage to whatever extent possible, up to and including saving your hands and feet from potential amputation down the line.
  • Severe Nerve Damage: If the nerves have been severely damaged, they may not fully recover. The body’s ability to repair nerve tissue is astounding but limited, and regeneration, if it occurs, is typically very slow. It’s vital to reduce ongoing and repetitive damage to allow that nerve to best improve over time.

How Does Nerve Pain Worsen Over Time?

If the condition causing your nerve pain is not corrected, nerve damage will progress and become irreversible. This can lead to significant daily activity challenges, worsening pain, and lost limbs.

Imagine trying to sleep while feeling constant pain in your legs. Think of the potential for injury when you can’t sense your hands touching too hot or too cold surfaces. These scenarios are common for people with progressing peripheral neuropathy with severe pain.

Peripheral neuropathy pain impacts you night and day.

Living without Nerve Pain

Regardless of reversibility, managing symptoms and improving quality of life are central to neuropathy treatment. This can include pain management strategies like chiropractic care and acupuncture, along with lifestyle changes to support nerve health. Consulting with a healthcare provider for a personalized treatment plan is essential for anyone experiencing peripheral nerve pain symptoms.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to get a thorough examination by a professional. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve your condition’s management. Early intervention gives you the greatest chance for full recovery. Don’t wait for the symptoms to progress.

To learn how to live without pain, schedule your initial consultation for a full evaluation. We can suggest a treatment plan with the best combination of providers and treatments.

Frequently Asked Questions about Nerve Pain Symptoms

1. What triggers peripheral neuropathy to flare up?

Peripheral neuropathy flare-ups can be triggered by various factors, including excessive alcohol consumption, poor dietary choices, exposure to toxins, infections, or stress. Managing these triggers through lifestyle adjustments and guidance from your chiropractor and medical team can help reduce the frequency and intensity of flare-ups.

2. Can exercise improve peripheral neuropathy?

Yes, exercise can be beneficial for individuals with peripheral neuropathy. Regular physical activity can help improve overall nerve health by boosting blood flow to the nerves in the limbs and helping to manage blood sugar levels, which is particularly important for diabetic neuropathy. However, it’s important to choose low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, or cycling, and to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise regimen.

For those with more severe nerve disorders, poor blood flow, and/or diabetes, the inability to feel your limbs can increase your risk of injury. Plus, blisters may slowly heal and become infected. Once you are cleared to exercise, proceed with caution according to your abilities to reduce your risk. Inspect your feet for blisters and signs of infection regularly.

3. Are there any dietary changes that can help with peripheral nerve pain?

Diet plays a crucial role in managing peripheral nerve pain. Increasing the intake of vitamins B12, B6, and D, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants can support nerve health. Reducing sugar and processed foods can also help control underlying conditions like diabetes that may contribute to neuropathy. Consulting with a dietitian or a healthcare provider can provide personalized dietary advice.

4. How long does it take to develop peripheral neuropathy?

The development of peripheral neuropathy can vary widely depending on the underlying cause. For instance, neuropathy due to physical injury might appear soon after the event, while neuropathy resulting from chronic conditions like diabetes may develop gradually over several years. Early detection and management of the underlying cause are key to preventing permanent damage or delaying the onset of more severe symptoms.

5. Can peripheral neuropathy affect the brain?

Peripheral neuropathy does not directly affect the brain, as it involves the peripheral nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. However, the pain and discomfort caused by peripheral neuropathy can have indirect effects on brain function, such as sleep disturbances, mood changes, and cognitive disruptions due to pain and stress. Managing the symptoms effectively can help mitigate these impacts.

To learn how to live without pain, schedule your initial consultation for a full evaluation. We can suggest a treatment plan with the best combination of providers and treatments.