Neural Pain – What is it?

Have you ever had a shooting pain which feels like you have torn a muscle but strangely enough you still seem to have relatively good strength? You can still get through your basketball game but you’re playing through pain.

Have you ever had pain referring into your leg that feels like it originates up in your back? Starts off dull and annoying but becomes more persistent & harder to ignore?

What about burning? pins and needles? Tingling sensations in your fingers or toes?

Sometimes such presentations aren’t as simple as a muscle or joint injury, but rather you may have an issue with your system of nerves.

What is nerve pain?

As you can imagine out internal wiring system is amazingly complex and our intention isn’t to try and give you anatomy lesson! Very simply our nervous system is made up of millions of miles of nerves that originate in the central system which includes our brain and spinal cord and travel out into the peripheries to every part of the body. These nerves pass through, between and under muscles, joints and fascia as they span out through the body and usually their course is ‘unobstructed’. It is when this sliding movement is disrupted that we can end up with nerve related pain.

Lets use a common example, Sciatica is a condition or presentation where a person will feel  pain and/or tightness down the back of their leg. What is happening?  Basically the sciatic nerve is getting irritated somewhere by another structure in the body. This can happen as it exits the spine or somewhere along its course through the glute, hamstring, back of the knee or side of the calf. This irritation or impingement can create pain or a change in sensation that follows the line of the nerve supply.

This can happen with all the nerves in the body.

What can your Physio do to Help?

When treating nerve pain our aim is to reduce the pressure/irritation on the nerve. This is done by treating the structure where the nerve is getting ‘caught’. Often treatment and give exercises may not be focused directly over your area of pain, however it may be required to actually benefit the actual area of pain.

A thorough assessment is needed to find out if and where your nerve is getting irritated. There are several tests that we can use to determine this and this helps us to decide on how to manage the condition to that long lasting changes are made.

Common conditions/areas that develop or result from Neural Tension are:

  • Sciatica
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Shoulder and Neck Pain
  • Hamstring and Calf Pain
  • Glute and Back Pain

If you have an area of pain or tightness that is being a little stubborn; you have tried stretching, strengthening, trigger balling etc. to no avail you may be suffering from neural tension or irritation. Don’t keep trying the same approach with no result – the key to your recovery is to seek professional help to find out what structure is irritating the nerve and start a targeted approach to restore full neural mobility.