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Neuropathic Pain

Is Neuropathic Pain Present in Chronic Lower Back Pain & Soft Tissue Syndromes?

Your fingers and legs hurt, seemingly without cause, and the pain in your lower back has worsened over the last several months. You swear you can hear your joints creak with movement, and now you have started losing sleep and constantly worrying about what is happening. You may have neuropathic and other pain, but the symptoms can be treated.

What is Neuropathic Pain?

Neuropathic pain, sometimes just called nerve pain, can result when your nervous system is injured or not working normally. When this happens, you feel pain everywhere in the nervous system — peripheral nerves external to your brain and spinal cord and from the spinal cord and brain. Your spinal cord and the brain are the central nervous system, and the peripheral nerves regulate pain signals in other parts of the body, like your arms, legs, organs, fingers, and toes.

What is Chronic Lower Back Pain?

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says that lower back pain is one of the top reasons people seek medical care or miss work, school, or other activities. It affects adults and children. 

Chronic lower back pain lasts three months or longer and is described as dull, perpetual discomfort to unexpected, intense, or shooting pain. It can happen because of picking something up the wrong way, injury, you are in poor physical health, or as you age.

What Are Soft Tissue Syndromes?

Soft tissue syndromes are also known as connective tissue disorders, according to California’s Cedars Sinai Hospital. Think of soft tissues as those which hold your body together. Made from collagen and elastin, they sometimes become inflamed and trigger pain throughout the body.

Soft tissue syndromes include rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, lupus, Marfan Syndrome, etc. Symptoms vary by person but are most worrisome when they affect how your lungs work.

Would Ketamine Help?

Ketamine may help relieve discomforting symptoms of lower back pain and soft tissue syndromes because it is a powerful anesthetic. When administered in controlled doses, the medicine also creates a temporary, out-of-body experience to reduce symptoms of mental distress. It is thought the medicine works by boosting the number of neurotransmitters in the brain and makes weakened cells transmit and perceive pain signals healthily.

Are Chronic Lower Back Pain & Soft Tissue Syndromes Linked with Neuropathic Pain?

Neuropathic or nerve pain is a common feature in chronic lower back pain and soft tissue syndromes for millions of people in the United States. According to the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University, 16 million adults – about 8% of the adult population – have chronic lower back pain and all the symptoms that go with it. People with soft tissue syndromes do not fare much better, either. The Cleveland Clinic estimates that 1.3 million people have rheumatoid arthritis.

If you have chronic lower back pain and have been diagnosed with a soft tissue syndrome such as rheumatoid arthritis, the confluence of symptoms, including nerve pain, can be hard to handle. In many cases, the pain is centered around soft tissues, bones, and joints, which explains the tenuous relationship between nerve pain and many physical health conditions.

Nerve pain can be caused by alcoholism, diabetes, chemotherapy drugs, nerve compression, and other underlying problems. Symptoms related to chronic lower back pain may include:

  • Spontaneous or unexpected pain that happens for no apparent reason.
  • Pain caused by something you would not think would trigger significant pain, like something gently touching your skin or a pinprick.
  • Pain lasts for weeks or months at a time.
  • Pain that does not improve, even with care, and may spread to the arms and legs.

Symptoms linked to soft tissue syndromes may include:

Diagnosis & Treatment

There is not an individual test or procedure which can successfully diagnose nerve pain, chronic lower back pain, or any number of soft tissue syndromes. But the person most capable of investigating your pain is a healthcare professional specializing in all or any of the three. Some of the tests you may be exposed to include x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging, nerve studies, a spinal tap, a nerve biopsy, and other nerve function tests.

If you have been diagnosed with these conditions, treatment may include physical or occupational therapy, psychotherapy, prescription pain medicine, diet or lifestyle changes, or even ketamine therapy.