Neuropathy And Chronic Back Pain

Neuropathic pain originates in the nerves; and can be thought of as similar to static on a telephone line. Neuropathy happens when nerves become damaged or dysfunctional because of an injury or trauma. It’s considered a chronic condition.

Peripheral NeuropathyNeuropathic pain is distinct from other types of pain. If a person breaks a bone, pain signals are carried via nerves from the site of the trauma to the brain. With neuropathic pain, however, pain signals originate in the nerves themselves.

How Neuropathic Pain Develops

In many cases, the nerves become damaged or dysfunctional after responding to an injury or trauma, causing hypersensitivity to pain. The nerves then send faulty signals of pain even when the injury has healed. The initial injury can occur in either the peripheral or central nervous system.

Neuropathic pain, or neuropathy, is a chronic condition, meaning it does not go away. Instead, the pain becomes the disease process. The terms sensory peripheral neuropathy and peripheral neuritis are sometimes used to describe neuropathy affecting the peripheral nerves.

An estimated 7 to 10% of people have neuropathic pain. This article examines neuropathy and chronic back pain, and how the two conditions are related.

When Back Pain Causes Neuropathy

Neuropathy can result from any type of pain that compresses or impinges on a nerve. A herniated disc, for example, could press against a nearby nerve, causing pain. Neuropathic pain originating from the back or spine may include:

Diabetes and regional pain syndrome (RPS), are common causes of neuropathy. Additional causes of include injury, disease, infection, exposure to toxins, and substance abuse. It is not always possible to pinpoint the cause.

By Ralph F. Rashbaum, MD

Updated: 03/02/2017

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