There are billions of nerves in our bodies. These nerves mesh together in a complex electrical network that serves as our bodies’ messaging system. Our nervous system is divided into two components: the central nervous system (consists of the brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system. The latter encompasses all the nerves outside of our central nervous system.
Both systems work hand in hand to control the smooth coordination of our movement and sensory functions. The peripheral nerves are responsible for relaying vital messages to our brain, which ensures that we can move our muscles, recognise pain to protect our bodies from harm, and keep our organs operating.
As essential as they can be, unfortunately, your peripheral nerves are incredibly fragile. While the nerves in your brain and spinal cord may be well-protected by your vertebrae and skull, the nerves that make up your peripheral central system are not enclosed by bones. Hence, these nerves are easily susceptible to trauma and the damage is best treated in the early stages. If you have been suspected to have nerve damage, use these common symptoms to navigate your discomfort.
1. Abnormal sensation in extremities
Tingling, electrical or burning sensations radiating to the extremities of your body – mainly the hands and feet – is associated with paraesthesia, a sign of either temporary discomfort or nerve damage.
Paraesthesia stems from a pinched nerve after either acute injury or prolonged but unnecessary pressure is exerted upon it. Typically, this uncomfortable pins-and-needles sensation is temporary and will subside after a few seconds (in acute trauma or injury) to hours or days. One way to alleviate any discomfort is by actively engaging in physical exercise to improve your blood circulation and mobilising the affected nerves between muscles.
However, should you be experiencing persistent pain, it could be a signal that you have an underlying medical condition. Possible symptoms include stabbing pain that can lead to restricted movement of the affected limb.
2. Extreme sensitivity in the affected area
Damaged nerves may heal like other parts of the body, such as the bone or skin. However, in certain cases, the nerve pain may cause the overlying skin to become so sensitive that daily activities such as bathing or wearing clothes may cause pain flares.
3. Muscle weakness and numbness
When the nerve relay system is damaged, necessary signals needed to control movements are disrupted. These signals are essential in maintaining muscle bulk. Thus, weakness and muscle atrophy (decrease in muscle size) occur first in nerve injury and not instant paralysis.
Paraesthesia and muscle weakness may be accompanied by numbness as the nerves are blocked and are unable to deliver electrical impulses to your central nervous system, thus failing to induce sensation.
4. Onset of electric shock-like headaches
Nerve damage can bring about various neuralgias, a collective condition in which you may be afflicted by an onset of headaches similar to electric shocks. This medical issue stems from the inflammation or compression of the bundle of nerves that supply the face and its muscles. Such headaches that come in the form of electric shock-like pain. Additionally, slight movement like touching the affected area can also trigger sharp, stabbing pain. Some people may find it difficult to chew on the affected side.
Because symptoms may be similar to migraines and other types of headaches, neuralgias can be tough to identify. Therefore, it is paramount that you seek assistance from a healthcare professional once you start experiencing intense head pains for a proper diagnosis.
What to do in the case of a sport injury
As changes to the nervous system may be due to malignancy and warrant urgent medical attention, some warning signs to look out for, along with back or bodily pains, include
Concomitant loss of weight and appetite over 6 months
Loss of bowel and bladder control (incontinence)
Night pains and sweat
Associated infection/ trauma or other sicknesses resulting in a lowered immune system5.
If you or someone you know has any of the above symptoms, do go to the A&E department of the hospital for immediate assessment.
If you have been experiencing any of the above symptoms, consider approaching a professional for a proper diagnosis of your current condition. Especially if the discomfort persists beyond two weeks, it’s best to seek a medical specialist immediately to rule out any underlying nerve damage and illnesses.
Here at Affinity Pain Clinic, we are use our comprehensive nerve pain treatments in Singapore.