Saturday, 4 November 2017

'Nervember': Natty Slogan But Does It Mean Anything?

Today's post from (see link below) is a blog post and like so many blog posts (including this one), it's a mixture of opinion and fact but shouldn't be taken as comprehensive. The article talks about various causes of nerve pain but there are over 100 causes and over 100 sorts of neuropathy - this article mentions a few. The information about HIV and nerve damage, for instance is arguably inaccurate but in general, the information provided here is helpful for people exploring the subject for the first time. That all said, the main point in the article, stating that 1st November is the start of the International nerve Pain Awareness month, may have escaped most people's attention. That Nervember is designed as an awareness promoter is not exactly headline news across the world but I suppose we have to support all well-meaning projects wherever they pop up. The test is when you ask the general population what they understand by 'Nervember!'...not a lot I suspect.

Did you know it’s NERVEmber?  

1 Nov

Today marks the first day of International Nerve Pain Awareness Month – NERVEmber, for people living with Neuropathic or nerve pain (NP). The campaign uses NERVEmber™ to create awareness for over 150 conditions that have nerve pain as a symptom. The International Pain Foundation host the OFFICIAL NERVEmber™ campaign every year and since it’s inception tens of thousands of nerve pain patients and organisations have signed on to help promote NERVEmber™.

There are two types of pain: 

Nociceptive pain is the type of pain that all people have had at some point. It is caused by actual, or potential, damage to tissues. For example, a cut, a burn, an injury, pressure or force from outside the body, or pressure from inside the body (for example, from a tumour) can all cause nociceptive pain. This type of pain is sharp or aching. Common painkillers like paracetamol, anti-inflammatories, codeine and morphine can ease this pain.

Neuropathic (nerve) pain is caused in the nerves themselves. The function of the nerve is affected in a way that it sends pain messages to the brain. Neuropathic pain is often described as burning, stabbing, shooting, aching, or like an electric shock. Neuropathic pain is less likely than nociceptive pain to be helped by traditional painkillers.

Neuropathic pain has some unusual aspects. It can get worse with a touch, prod or stimulus that normally would not cause pain. You may even feel pain when there is no touch or stimulus. This is often in the form of pins and needles or electric shock sensations.

Nerve pain is almost always a chronic pain, and is a very complex condition. Once the nerves are damaged, the messages they send to the pain centers are disrupted. Nerve pain, or neuropathic pain, can have a range of different causes. Unfortunately, in many cases, there seems to be no obvious cause for nerve pain. However, listed below are the most common clear causes of the condition.

1. Alcoholism

Alcohol is a toxic substance and can damage nerve tissue. If people drink too much alcohol, they may start to notice tingling sensations and pain in their limbs. This is called ‘alcoholic neuropathy’. People who suffer from this have had damage to their peripheral nerves due to over-consumption of alcohol.

2. Amputation

Phantom limb pain is the pain experienced after amputation. This can be mild to extreme and is felt in the area where the limb has been removed. When someone has an amputation, the limb is no longer there, but nerve endings at the amputation site itself continue to send signals to the brain.

3. Leg, Back, and Hip Issues

Sciatica is a symptom of a nerve condition. It usually starts in the buttocks and hips, traveling down the leg. Usually, people also experience pain in the lower back, which can be worse than the pain in the leg. Sciatica happens when the sciatic nerve, which is the one that travels from the lower back down into the buttocks and then the legs, is damaged.

4. Chemotherapy

Cancer cells can be killed by chemotherapy, but the side effects of this treatment include nerve damage across the body. This is known as peripheral neuropathy. Not everybody will develop this, although the type of medication and the dosage often determines the likelihood.

5. Diabetes

Over the years of having diabetes, many people develop nerve pain. When it first starts, it is often asymptomatic, after which some numbness or tingling in the feet can start. As the condition progresses, the pain may spread to the hands, and often starts to get worse, particularly at night.

6. Facial Nerve Problems

Facial nerve problems are known as ‘tic douloureux’, or ‘trigeminal neuralgia’. Sufferers experience shooting, intermittent pain in the face. It occurs in the trigeminal nerve, which is one of the head’s largest nerves, sending impulses of pain, touch, temperature, and pressure to the brain, from the jaw, face, forehead, gums, and around the eyes.


It’s not believed that the HIV virus affects the nervous system’s cells. However, the virus does cause a lot of inflammation, which in turn can cause damage to the brain and spinal cord, meaning that the nerve cells may no longer work properly. The virus can cause damage leading to neurological complications.

8. Multiple Sclerosis

People with multiple sclerosis often develop pins and needles, prickling, aching, and burning sensations. Often, this is chronic and not acute. It is usually treated in the same way as acute dysesthesias, however.

9. Shingles

Shingles is a viral infection that affects the roots of the nerves. The majority of people recover fully from the disease. However, in those over the age of 60, particularly those who didn’t seek treatment, around 50% experience permanent pain. Sometimes, this can last a lifetime although, more commonly, it lasts for a few months or years. This pain is known as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), and is caused by the virus causing permanent damage to the skin’s nerves. Sometimes, this pain is mild and more of an inconvenience than anything else. However, in some people, the pain can be so bad that even the touch of clothes becomes excruciating.

Neuropathic pain can disrupt a patient’s ability to go about their daily activities. People often miss work, have difficulty concentrating and find that even wearing clothing can be painful. As a result, it is also associated with sleep impairment and increased anxiety and depression.

One of the worst parts about having a chronic or nerve illness is the lack of understanding and support many get from the people around them. This is why it is important to spread awareness and help people understand that just because a person looks ‘fine’, and their illness is not visible to the onlooker, doesn’t mean they are not in pain. So be kind, you never know what a person is going through!

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