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How To Tell If You Have Nerve Pain or Joint Pain

What causes pain? Many people think that pain is a sign of injuries. Sometimes, this is true, such as when you cut your finger or pull a muscle.

In many cases, though, the pain keeps bothering you for months or years, long after any injuries should have healed. This is called chronic pain, and over 20% of Americans have it.

One often overlooked cause of chronic pain is nerve damage. Nerve pain feels different than joint pain, and you need different solutions to find relief.

What Does Nerve Pain Feel Like?

Neuropathic pain is completely different than other types of pain. It feels like electric currents are running through different parts of your body. Some people describe this pain as an intense burning sensation or a lightning strike. You may feel like the pain stabs deep into your muscles.

Where Does Nerve Pain Happen?

There are nerves all over your body, so you can experience nerve pain just about anywhere. If you have a compressed nerve in your lower spine, for example, you may notice pain that shoots through your leg and buttocks. Other people have problems with chronic pain in their arms, neck or upper back.

How Does Nerve Pain Differ From Joint Pain or Muscle Pain?

These factors can help you identify the cause of your pain:

  • Type of pain: As mentioned, nerve pain feels like electricity or fire. Joint pain is generally a deep throbbing or soreness.

  • Numbness: Nerve pain can trigger sensations of numbness or tingling in feet, arms and fingers. Joint pain doesn’t.

  • Swelling: With joint or muscle pain, you can usually see swelling around the affected area. It feels sore and hurts if you touch it. With nerve pain, the body looks normal on the outside.

  • Stiffness: Both muscle and joint pain can leave you feeling stiff. Nerve pain can also trigger shooting pain with certain movements, but it sticks around even if you’re just lying in bed.

  • Causes: Muscle pain and some types of joint pain are often caused by physical injuries. When the cut, strain or tear heals, the pain gets better. Nerve pain can also be caused by infections or health problems, such as shingles or diabetes. To treat the pain, it’s necessary to deal with the underlying illness.

These are just some general guidelines. It’s not always easy, even for general practitioners, to identify the cause of your pain. You may need to visit a pain specialist or osteopathic doctor for a comprehensive diagnosis.

Why Is It Important To Identify the Cause of Your Pain?

Nerve pain requires different treatments than pain related to injuries or arthritis. With nerve pain, over-the-counter medication for inflammation often doesn’t do anything.

There are a variety of treatments that can work, however, including physical therapy, massage and relaxation techniques. Doctors may also prescribe antidepressants to help you sleep better at night.

Knowing exactly what’s causing your pain can give you peace of mind. It also helps you follow good habits and identify things to avoid. Some types of exercise can do wonders for nerve pain. The superfoods you eat and bad foods you avoid can have a large impact as well.


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