December 20

Diabetic Neuropathy and Back Pain

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Diabetic Neuropathy is a condition where nerve damage occurs and can lead to severe pain. More than half of those who have been diagnosed with Diabetes have some type of nerve damage and Neuropathic pain associated with it. Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy can range from numbness, tingling, and weakness in the affected areas. Back pain can also come along from having Diabetic Neuropathy. Properly managing Diabetes and glucose levels can potentially stave off nerve damage or continuous nerve damage. For those who already have nerve damage and pain that comes from that, a pain management doctor can help properly diagnose that pain and come up with the best plan of care for that individual.  

How Does Diabetic Neuropathy Manifest? 

Nerve damage from Diabetic Neuropathy happens because blood glucose (sugar) levels have remained too high for a long period of time. Once the nerves have been damaged then pain signals are sent to the brain and Neuropathic pain often becomes chronic, meaning it is long-term and possibly even life-long. There are four main types of Diabetic Neuropathy, which are: 

  • Peripheral Neuropathy: This type of Neuropathy involves the peripheral nervous system, which are the nerves located outside the brain and spinal cord (or your central nervous system). The two systems, the peripheral nervous system and central nervous system, work together by the nerves in the central nervous system sending information throughout the body via the nerves of the peripheral system so that these areas can react to stimuli. This is the most common type of Diabetic Neuropathy and typically affects the legs and feet, then the hands, arms, abdomen, and back. 
  • Autonomic Neuropathy: This type of Neuropathy involves the autonomic nervous system. These are the nerves that control involuntary physiological processes, such as breathing, heart rate, digestion, blood pressure, sweating, and sexual arousal. The autonomic nervous system takes in information about the body and the external environment to be able to adjust the processes just listed accordingly. Diabetes can affect the nerves that are part of the autonomic processes and can cause bloating, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, slowly emptying stomach so that someone feels full easily, and decreased sexual desire. 
  • Diabetic Polyradiculopathy: This is a fairly rare type of Diabetic Neuropathy and only affects about 1% of those who have been diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes and is more often seen in those who are older in age. People with this form of Diabetic Neuropathy typically experience nerve pain or weakness of the upper thigh, usually only in one leg, which can migrate to the hip and lower back. Diabetic Polyradiculopathy is also known as Proximal Neuropathy and is found more often in men than women. Once people start to experience symptoms, they will usually get worse then gradually get better after some time. 
  • Focal Neuropathy: Also known as Diabetic Mononeuropathy, this form of Neuropathy tends to only affect one nerve at one time. Focal Neuropathy most often occurs in the hands, legs, head, or torso and can cause double vision, pain in the thighs, difficulty focusing your vision, aching behind one eye, hearing problems, paralysis on one side of the face (Bell’s Palsy), and numbness in the affected area. It is also a less common type of Diabetic Neuropathy than Peripheral Neuropathy or Autonomic Neuropathy.    

Back Pain Associated with Diabetes 

Can Diabetes cause back pain? While there are many non-Neuropathy-related reasons why you may be experiencing back pain, even if you have Diabetes, there is actually a link between Diabetes and back pain. Both type 1 and type 2 Diabetes can negatively affect the body and all its systems. Chronic back pain has been shown to be more of an issue in those who have been diagnosed with Diabetes and the back pain might get worse as the Diabetes progresses, meaning as it’s uncontrolled. Unfortunately, the research shows that the rates of both type 1 and type 2 Diabetes developing in younger people is increasing and this also leads to a higher chance of them having chronic back pain. 

Diabetic Neuropathy and Lower Back Pain Experiences 

Those who are dealing with Diabetic Neuropathy may have direct back pain, which can range in severity but can also have pain elsewhere that originates in the back. People often feel pain in their legs and feet, but the nerve is one that starts in the back. Diabetic Neuropathic pain can actually mimic Sciatica and it can be easy to mix up the two, with a medical exam being necessary to distinguish which condition is the problem. Sciatica is similar in terms of being a type of pain that originates from the nerves in the back. However, Sciatica is specifically pain of the sciatic nerve and is usually caused by a herniated disk or bone spur, or anything that causes the nerve to become compressed. 

Risk Factors 

Anyone of any age, who has Diabetes, can develop Neuropathy, and subsequently back pain (although the rates are higher in older people). The following leads people to having an increased risk of an from Diabetes:  

Hyperglycemia: When a person has high blood glucose, or blood sugar, that means they have too little insulin in their body or they can’t properly use the insulin it has. Having high blood sugar that goes unregulated can significantly heighten the chances of Diabetic Neuropathy setting in and causing nerve damage. 

A History of Kidney Disease: The kidneys are two bean shaped organs that filter your blood to remove waste and water in order to create urine. Nerve damage can occur in those who have kidney disease, due to either nutrient unbalances and dialysis. Nerve damage from kidney disease can also continue to get worse over time. 

Having A Physically Demanding Job: Physically demanding jobs can easily lead to injury, which includes nerve damage. Along with that nerve damage, back pain can result from having to be on your feet all day, without the opportunity to sit or rest. 

Being A Smoker: Smoking is known to cause significant damage to the body overall and can also have an effect on the nerves. Smoking leads to the narrowing of the arteries.  

Treatments for Back Pain caused by Diabetic Neuropathy 

While Diabetic Neuropathy has no current cure, the symptoms can be managed. Specifically, back pain can be treated through anti-inflammatory medications and medication management. Steroid injections are another form of treatment for back pain and involve injecting a mixture of local anesthetic medication and steroid medication directly into the lower back. The steroid shot is an effective measure to provide relief, which can last from a few weeks up to six months. Steroid shots act as an anti-inflammatory medication that reduces pain and swelling. Doctors administering the injection will usually add in the local anesthetic to help provide immediate pain relief, as the steroids may take a few days to kick in. 

Start Getting Treated Now 

If you find yourself suffering from moderate to severe pain from Diabetic Neuropathy, call Pain and Spine Specialists today! We are a team of highly qualified providers who will properly evaluate your symptoms and determine the best course of treatment. Let us help you return to a fully functioning life, free from pain. Call (301) 703-8767 (Maryland), (724) 603-3560(Pennsylvania), or (540) 433-1905 (Virginia) and schedule an appointment today. 


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