Did you know that 15 million to 20 million Americans suffer from nerve pain? Nerve pain causes tingling, burning, and can make you feel like you’re walking on pins and needles.
There is an important link between your nervous system and pain. If you suffer from chronic nerve pain, it’s helpful to understand how this works so you can look into different treatment options.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the relationship between nerve pain and the nervous system.
Overview of the Nervous System
Your nervous system is made up of two main parts, which are your brain and spinal cord. It controls and processes movement, memory, and thought. Your nervous system also plays an important role in how you process pain.
You also have the parasympathetic and sympathetic components of your nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system tells the body to calm down and digest pain signals. While the sympathetic nervous system is the “fight or flight” part and drives your body to react to the perceived threat of pain.
Pain and the Sympathetic Nervous System
When you experience pain, your sympathetic nervous system will increase your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure.
When you experience chronic nerve pain, your sympathetic nervous becomes overstimulated and gets stuck in “fight or flight” mode. Due to this, your brain processes this type of pain in a more stressful way.
What Part of the Brain Processes Pain?
You also have nervous system pain receptors located in nerve fibers throughout your body that sense pain in different ways, like being either sharp or dull.
When you have pain, the signal from these receptors goes to a part of the brain called the thalamus. The thalamus has to direct the signal to different parts of your brain to figure out where the pain came from. It also compares it to other types of pain you’ve had in the past.
Neuropathic pain, or nerve pain, occurs when your nervous system is not working correctly. Damaged nerve fibers send false signals and you end up feeling real pain, but with no known cause.
As a result, your body becomes overly sensitive to any kind of stimulus, and you’ll feel pain from simple things like walking or from bed sheets touching your body.
Conditions such as diabetes, shingles, trauma, or disorders like multiple sclerosis can cause neuropathic pain.
How to Treat Nerve Pain
Treating nerve pain involves calming your overactive nervous system. For mild pain, you can use over-the-counter pain killers like ibuprofen, as well as ointments, gels, or sprays for your skin.
Other treatments include prescription medications for neuropathic pain, physical therapy, and counseling.
Some research suggests that using transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can help to treat nerve pain. TENS therapy works by stimulating nerve cells to block pain signals.
Talk to your doctor before you go this route, as stimulating specific nerves can cause problems if you have certain medical conditions. You can continue reading here for more information.
Your Nervous System and Pain
Now that you know more about the relationship between the nervous system and pain, you can talk to your doctor about different options.
Dealing with nerve pain can really impact your overall health and well-being, so don’t be afraid to do your research to figure out what works best for you.
If you’re ready to read more, check out our blog for more health tips that will empower your mind!