During October on Nevada Pain, we discussed a variety of topics, especially those that dealt directly with nerve pain. Here’s our top ten takeaways from the month.
Nerve pain isn’t only caused by one issue. Instead, there are many different causal agents for this problem. Toxic nerve pain is caused by ingesting or being exposed to a harmful drug or chemical. Metabolic nerve pain results from chemical processes in the body. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is the most well-known causes of metabolic nerve pain. Likewise, some types of nerve pain are hereditary. These include congenital causes of nerve pain such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease or Fabry disease.
Nerve pain can also come about due to a traumatic incident. This may be as the result of an injury or surgery. Autoimmune nerve pain is a type of nerve pain that is directly related to an autoimmune disorder. Finally, infections can actually cause long-lasting nerve pain. The most well-known source of infectious nerve pain is the virus that causes chicken pox which can also lead to shingles or post-herpetic neuralgia.
Complex regional pain syndrome (or CRPS) causes pain, though it can also cause muscle spasms, sensitivity to touch, and bone issues. While there are two types of this condition depending on cause, 90% of patients suffer from CRPS-II. This means that the cause of the illness can be directly traced back to some obvious injury or trauma. With the other 10% of patients, there are discussions as to whether or not the condition may be caused by an undiagnosed or unknown trauma or injury.
In our “Research on Sitting” post, we discussed the many health risks of too much sitting each day. These include a reduced life expectancy, an overactive pancreas, muscle degeneration in the abdomen and spine, brain fog, and increased weight. Because of these health risks, one doctor asked patients if they could limit their sitting and sleeping to just 23 1/2 hours a day, thereby incorporating some movement into a day. We noted that not sitting could help some major conditions, including:
- For knee arthritis: Reduced pain and disability by 47%
- For dementia/Alzheimer’s: Reduced progression by 50%
- For diabetes: Reduced progression by 58%”
For Mental Illness Awareness Week, we discussed many of the unknown facts and myths about mental illness. While it may not seem interconnected, there is evidence that mental illness (especially depression) and chronic pain are closely related. Patients with fibromyalgia also report higher rates of anxiety than those who do not have the condition. Treating bodily pain solely becomes unacceptable. We must look at how the body and the mind interact.
Some complementary therapies can be highly successful for treating forms of nerve pain. As we discussed, two of these draw on the healing properties of heat.
Capsaicin is a compound in chili peppers that give them their heat. When concentrated and used as an ointment, it can actually help the body build a tolerance to pain. Baths, on the other hand, provide restorative relief from nerve pain and help loosen muscles.
In addition to ergonomic chairs, arthritis sufferers can also find some measure of relief by adjusting the height of computer monitors, using document holders, and providing proper support to the hands and fingers. All of these devices can help take the strain out of repetitive, everyday tasks, thereby reducing the amount of pain experienced.
If your goal is to prevent, rather than treat, nerve pain consider a few lifestyle changes. Gentle exercise in particular can help even out blood sugars, promote nerve regeneration, and release feel-good endorphins. Other lifestyle modifications include supplements, natural oils, meditation, and good sleep habits.
Arthritis is one of the major causes of nerve-related pain. While osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are well-known, there are many different types of this condition. Arthritis can present as scleroderma, a condition that causes the skin to become hard, or even lupus, an autoimmune disorder.
Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disorder. With multiple sclerosis:
“[T]he immune system attacks the myelin and causes damage. The damaged myelin forms scar tissue, or sclerosis, which is where the disorder’s name comes from. This process can eventually cause damage to the nerve fibers themselves. Nerve impulses traveling along scarred or damaged nerves in the central nervous system become interrupted or distorted.”
Treatment plans focus on slowing the disease’s progression, treating relapses, managing symptoms, improving function, and addressing mental health issues.
Diabetes is often linked with diabetic peripheral neuralgia, a form of nerve pain. Changing lifestyle factors to reduce your risk of developing this condition includes changes to diet and exercise. Recently, scientists have noted that a small increase in black coffee may actually cut the risk of this condition by 11%. Adding milk and sugar negates the effect, but we’re still on board!
What other facts did you learn about nerve pain in October?
Image by Terrisa Meeks via Flickr