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What causes nerve pain?

Nerve pain can be due to problems in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), or in the nerves that run from there to the muscles and organs.

Nerve pain is usually caused by disease or injury. Common causes include:

  • an injury to the brain, spine or nerves
  • stroke
  • poor blood supply to the nerves
  • trapped nerves
  • multiple sclerosis
  • heavy drinking
  • phantom pain after an amputation
  • cancer or its treatment with radiation, surgery or chemotherapy
  • vitamin B12 or thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency
  • nerve compression or invasion by a tumour
  • certain medicines
  • infections such as shingles and HIV/AIDS
  • diabetes.

Some conditions that cause nerve pain

Sciatica

Sciatica is pressure on the nerves of the lower back which causes pain down the leg. The pain can be accompanied by pins and needles, numbness or weakness in the leg.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome associated with burning or aching pain in different parts of the body. The cause is not well understood, but it can be triggered by emotional distress and poor sleep. There may be genetic factors, too.

Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when the peripheral nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body are damaged. It’s caused by diabetes, autoimmune diseases and other conditions.

Last reviewed: November 2016

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