Nerve Pain after Surgery
Although surgery is invasive, it is an essential medical intervention for removing damaged tissue, repairing organs, redirecting blood vessels, or implanting devices. However, this procedure results in several types of discomfort during recovery. Nerve pain is a common post-surgery challenge.
The intensity of nerve pain can range from mild to intense. Consequently, several treatment options address the cause and severity of the pain. This article discusses why nerve pain occurs after surgery, its symptoms, causes, and available treatments at Barkman & Smith Physical Therapy.
Why Do I Feel Nerve Pain After Surgery?
Nerve pain after surgery is also known as neuropathic pain. This pain results from damage or irritation to the body's nerves during surgery. The nerves transmit signals between the brain and the rest of the body. These nerves can send abnormal signals when disrupted, leading to pain sensations.
Symptoms of Nerve Pain After Surgery
Nerve pain is present with a range of distressing symptoms. Although these symptoms can vary widely among individuals, these are the key symptoms to be aware of:
Sharp, Shooting Pain
Nerve pain is commonly present with the sudden onset of sharp, shooting pains that seem to radiate along the affected nerve pathway. This pain can be intense and may feel like an electric shock.
Nerve pain commonly includes a burning sensation that may be localized or spread over a wider area. This burning feeling is quite similar to touching a hot surface.
Neuropathic pain may cause tingling sensations in affected areas. This sensation is similar to feeling pins and needles, ranging from mild to severe. Usually, this tingling sensation may come and go.
Nerve damage can numb several areas of the body. As a result, you may not feel normal sensations when touching the skin. Numbness can be uncomfortable and impact your daily activities.
Hypersensitivity to Touch
You may find your skin overly sensitive to touch if you have nerve pain. Contact with clothing or other objects may trigger heightened discomfort.
Stabbing or Stinging Sensations
You may experience neuropathic pain as a stabbing or stinging sensation as though sharp objects are pressed against your skin.
Neuropathic pain often follows a specific nerve pathway. It may cause pain to radiate from the surgery site to other body areas the nerve passes through.
Nerve pain can cause muscle weakness in the affected area, impacting your fine motor skills and overall functional abilities.
Neuropathic pain can be intense, disrupting your sleep patterns and leading to difficulty falling or staying asleep throughout the night.
Causes of Nerve Pain After Surgery
Postoperative neuropathic pain can result from several factors related to the procedure. The primary causes of nerve pain after surgery include;
Direct Nerve Injury
Direct nerve injury during the procedure is a direct cause of post-surgery neuropathic pain. Surgical instruments, retraction, or manipulation of tissues can damage nerves and disrupt their normal function, causing the brain to misinterpret pain signals.
Scar Tissue Formation
As the body heals, scar tissue forms at the surgical site. While scar tissue is not painful, it can exert pressure on nearby nerves, leading to pain and altered sensations.
Surgery triggers the body's inflammatory response as it repairs tissues. However, this inflammation can affect surrounding nerves, leading to irritation and pain.
Positioning During Surgery
Position matters during surgery. Surgery may cause prolonged pressure on your nerves, especially if you are positioned in a way that compresses your nerve. This sustained compression can reduce blood flow and oxygen supply, leading to neuropathic pain.
Abnormalities in Nerve Regeneration
As your nerves heal from surgery, they may become hypersensitive or regenerate abnormally. This abnormal regeneration can lead to pain sensations even after the surgical site has healed.
Surgical Site Infections
Infections at the surgical site can lead to inflammation and swelling, irritating or damaging nearby nerves, and causing pain and discomfort.
Underlying Medical Conditions
Pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes, can make nerves more vulnerable to damage during surgery and increase the risk of postoperative nerve pain.
Home Remedies for Nerve Pain After Surgery
Home remedies can help relieve mild nerve pain after surgery. However, if your pain is severe or persistent, you should seek medical help.
Home remedies for post-surgical neuropathic pain include;
Rest and Elevation
Resting promotes relaxation, reducing pain. You can also elevate the affected area to reduce nerve inflammation and pressure and promote healing.
Cold and Warm Compress
You can apply a cold compress to the affected area to relieve pain. Avoid direct sources and wrap the ice pack in a towel before applying it to the area. Use the cold compress for short periods, preferably 15 minutes at a time.
You can also use a warm compress to relieve pain and discomfort. Warm compresses help to relax muscles and soothe your nerves. Like cold compress, apply warm compresses for short periods and avoid direct sources.
Over-the-counter topical creams containing lidocaine or capsaicin can relieve localized nerve pain. However, topical creams are for short-term use. If nerve pain persists, consult your doctor.
You can self-massage painful areas with your fingertips or a foam roller. Massage can help relax muscles and improve blood circulation to alleviate nerve pain.
How to Relieve Nerve Pain After Surgery
Although nerve pain after surgery is quite common, you can relieve the pain by using one or more of the following treatment options.
Your doctor may prescribe pain relievers like acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve mild nerve pain. In addition, certain antidepressants, like selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), can help regulate nerve pain signals. Although antidepressants don't work immediately, you should feel relief within a week.
Your doctor may also prescribe anticonvulsants to manage your nerve pain. Anticonvulsants are used for seizures, and they stabilize nerve signals.
Your doctor may inject local anesthetics around specific nerves to temporarily numb them and relieve pain.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) involves applying low-level electrical current to the skin and reducing pain signals. This neuropathic pain relief is controlled, and your doctor will apply the current through a small, battery-operated device.
You may undergo a decompression surgery if the cause of your nerve pain is nerve entrapment or compression. Your surgeon will recommend this procedure to alleviate pressure and relieve the affected nerve. You may also undergo scar tissue removal surgery if your scar tissue is compressing the nerves and causing pain.
How Can Physical Therapy Help with Nerve Pain After Surgery?
Post-operational therapy in Bedford is a non-invasive treatment for alleviating nerve pain and providing relief. Your physical therapist will develop a customized treatment plan with one or more techniques to relieve neuropathic pain.
Physical therapy techniques for relieving nerve pain in Bedford, TX, include;
Nerve Gliding Exercises
These exercises stretch the nerves, facilitating smooth nerve movement and preventing entrapment to promote healing. Nerve glides also improve your strength, flexibility, and range of motion.
There are several nerve gliding exercises targeting different areas of the body. The ulnar nerve glide targets the ulnar nerve, a major nerve in the arm.
How to Do Ulnar Nerve Glide
- Stand and stretch your arm to the side with your palm facing the floor.
- Slowly bend your elbow and wrist so your palm moves towards the side of your face. You should feel a gentle tug in your wrist, pinky finger, or elbow.
- Hold the position for 2 seconds and then release.
- Repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times.
Strengthening and Flexibility Exercises
Your physical therapist can recommend targeted exercises to strengthen your muscles and improve joint flexibility. These exercises reduce pressure on the affected nerves and ease discomfort. For instance, side leg raises improve strength and balance and relieve nerve tightness.
How to Do Side Leg Raise
- Steady your balance with one hand using a chair or table.
- Stand straight with your feet slightly apart.
- Slowly lift one leg to the side.
- Hold this position for 5 – 10 seconds.
- Lower your leg at the same pace.
- Repeat for the other leg.
- Try doing this exercise without holding the chair as you improve your balance.
Poor posture can strain and irritate your nerves, causing pain. Professionals at Barkman & Smith Physiotherapy will educate you on proper body posture to prevent unnecessary strain on nerves and minimize discomfort.
Physical therapists in Bedford, TX, use manual therapy techniques to relieve tension and pressure in your nerves. These techniques employ a hands-on approach, including soft tissue and joint mobilization.
Pain Management Strategies
Your physical therapist will educate you on pain management strategies to ease your pain and relieve tension in your nerves. These techniques include breathing exercises and meditation. In addition, relaxation can relieve stress and ease your pain. You can learn to relax by taking a warm bath, drinking hot tea, or listening to soothing music.
Nerve pain after surgery can be discomforting. However, understanding the causes and symptoms of this pain can help you seek appropriate treatment. Physical therapy Bedford uses a suitable and customized treatment plan to ease pain and restore strength.