Chronic nerve pain
- Nerve Pain
- Risk Factors
Chronic nerve pain is long-term pain in the nerve pathways, often caused by a spine condition, injury or disease. The term chronic is often described in the medical field as anything that lasts longer than three months consistently.
Because the nervous system encompasses the entire body, pain and other symptoms can occur anywhere. In terms of the spine, nerve pain can be caused by traumatic injury or a degenerative condition that develops with the natural aging of the spine. When these conditions develop and the anatomy of the spine begins to shift, due to issues like a herniated or bulging disc, a nerve root can become compressed. This nerve compression can produce symptoms like pain, tingling, numbness or weakness in peripheral muscle groups affected by the pinched nerve.
If you are experiencing chronic nerve pain in your spine and/or extremities, it is important that you visit your doctor and determine the cause of your symptoms. Often, conservative treatment is an effective way to reduce pain and avoid spine surgery. Your doctor can help you find the appropriate conservative treatment for your needs.
Conservative treatment for chronic nerve pain
In a large number of cases, chronic nerve pain can be managed using conservative treatment methods, including:
- Hot/cold treatment. Application of heat packs increases blood flow, stimulating the healing process, while ice reduces swelling. A doctor may suggest using one or the other, or alternating between them.
- Pain medication. Over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be used for nerve pain. More severe cases may call for prescription-strength doses of pain or anti-inflammatory medicine.
- Epidural steroid injections. Cortisone can be injected directly into the area of the pinched nerve, temporarily numbing the affected nerve. This method often requires more than one injection, and it generally is recommended to limit injections to no more than three in a 12-month period.
- Physical therapy or exercise. Under the close supervision or instruction of a trained therapist, many patients find relief performing low-impact aerobic exercises, such as walking or swimming.
- Alternative methods. Although not universally accepted as effective, some patients have found relief through therapeutic massage, acupuncture and chiropractic therapy.
When to consider surgery for chronic nerve pain
If chronic nerve pain persists despite weeks or months of conservative treatment, your doctor may recommend that you explore surgery as an option. We encourage you to research the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute before committing to a traditional open spine surgery. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery, and our patients experience a shorter recovery time and less risk of complication.^ Our minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures use muscle-sparing techniques that allow for a streamlined outpatient experience.