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Whats worse; Numbness or pain?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:27 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery

I was wondering if anyone is able to answer my question.

In terms of a nerve injury, which is worse, numbness or pain or pins needles?

I have looked this up and can't seem to find an answer but some ppl on the boards have written that numbness is a sign of a worse injury. But I am not really sure.

Also, when an injured nerve regenerates, does it cause an increase in pain?

Has anyone experienced this?
Thank you!


  • For me the numbness was the worst wondering if feeling would ever come back. Also bashing my foot and lower leg into chairs couch etc and getting a bruise and not aware where it came from. Then the tingling, to me that's awakening although annoying. But numbness was the worst and I think more nerve compression. But when I started lyrica I got numb and swollen for a short while then it went away. ok when I had my epis for my leg pain, I felt muscle cramping and still throbbing pain but I've noticed my toes are less numb depending on the position of my leg. So to me having my feeling back in my toes and awakening of the nerves and muscles was painful at first. Anyway you know I'm not a Dr. this was my experience but I haven't had surgery just the epis and meds. I hope you're healing well. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Does this really indicate more permanent nerve damage?
    What if it hasn't really improved after 5 months...thats not too good eh?
  • Thought that I would reply my experience with numbness. In my case I had severe numbness in my left arm/hand before my first surgery, the severe part went away but I am left with some numb spots on my arm and down into my hand, it has been 15 months since my first surgery, both of my surgerons tell me it can take up to three years for nerves to repair themselves. I also have cord damage and thet may be what is causing my numbness. Hang in there.



    2 level ACDF c5-c6, c6-c7, November 2007...cervical stenosis with myelopathy....Removal of hardware and another 2 level ACDF c3-c4, c4-c5 and posterior cervical laminectomy at c5,c6,c7 in March 2008 to help stop the progression of myelopathy..was moving right along..looks like stenosis and such has moved itself to c3 and c4...2 level laminectomy at c3 and 4 near the end of March. Thought it was a light at the end of the tunnel, maybe it's the train.....lol I am not a medical professional and my opinion is just from my experience.

  • My doc has commented that pins and needles are a sign of nerves waking up. I've had pins and needles in my left foot since prior to my ALIF surgery. They stopped one day last week, and just... flat numbness (partial, still have some feeling). I almost cried. Next day the pins and needles were back. Maybe its psycho-somatic, but I like them in that I at least think SOMETHING is happening in that foot, that there is some hope...
  • I too have researched and asked a lot about this:

    I used to have pain.
    Now I have numbness.

    Numbness is definitely worse on the 'scale of how bad your nerves are damaged'

    PERSONALLY - I did not mind the numbness. Personally I rejoiced in the fact that I was numb instead of having pain. (part of this stems from my right ankle being on it's 7th surgery - numbness there helps a LOT)

    BUT... NOW, almost 7 months later, I'm finding out that atrophy is setting in. My muscles that get no nerve messages are shriveling and causing problems. Only the outside half of my right leg is numb. I have major issues with cramping in my thigh - EVERY time I try to kneel. And my pinky toe spasms and charlie horses all the time - atrophy.

    I'm in PT right now to combat this, but so far (in over a month) I've not seen any change for the better.

    I have no idea if I'll get feeling back. Could be tomorrow, could be 3 years, could be never.

    Good Luck.

  • Yes, I think the numbness is a sign of nerve damage. If you're lucy and your nerve begins to "reawaken", you may have the pins and needles. Right now my pins and needles are driving me crazy, but if it means that my feeling will eventually come back, I'm happy with it. I hope I'm not left like this though! I am making a long slow climb back to health. I wish things would hurry up, but I guess I'll have to accept the slow pace.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • has caused me a few problems...I have no sense of obstructions around my lower leg and have stumbled a few times.
    I absolutley can NOT stand anything touching the leg.

    My foot is numb / hyper-sensative...really weird. I case it up in my boots and try and forget about it.

    But the numbness is spreading over a larger surface area, to vback of calf and one strip along back of my thigh.
    I also get very unsteady - whats that? It is like the leg has a mind of its own!

    It seems that people are saying that numbness is worse for prognosis than pins / needles??
    Numbness is better in so far as it is numb...i do get electric shocks thro my toe, feels like a nine inch nail! lol! But its quick..luckily!
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,859
    The answer sometimes depend where you are in terms of your medical situation.
    I think that initial post surgery folks would be dealing more with physical pain and are taking medications specifically to address the pain.
    Later on down the road, which could be several months or several years nerve conditions are present.. As Zach pointed out as well as others. Nerve problems can be

    NumbnessThis is where part of your body feels like it went to sleep. For me, this happens 1) When sleeping on one side, my shoulders/arms/hands will go numb 2) During the day when one of my hands starts to go numb.

    TinglingThe pins and needles. Sometimes like a redhot poker is jabbing you in spots. From my experience, this was most often during the post surgical phase.

    WeaknessWhen some nerve roots are damaged or have died, there is generally a weakness associated with that.
    For me, I have some damaged and dead nerves in my right foot. At times, I can have what people call "Drop/Dead foot" Its most noticeable when I use stairs. I have to pay extra attention that I left that foot up when I am suppose to.

    PainI would say this would be Acute pain, sharp pain as a result of a trapped nerve. Not so much associated with post surgical or recovery time frames, but more as a result of some acute pain onset (ie Pinched nerve )

    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • There are three types of peripheral nerves: motor, sensory and autonomic. Some neuropathies affect all three types of nerves, while others involve only one or two.

    3 Types of Peripheral Nerves:

    * Motor
    * Sensory
    * Autonomic

    Motor nerves send impulses from the brain and spinal cord to all of the muscles in the body. This permits people to do activities like walking, catching a baseball, or moving the fingers to pick something up. Motor nerve damage can lead to muscle weakness, difficulty walking or moving the arms, cramps and spasms.

    Sensory nerves send messages in the other direction—from the muscles back to the spinal cord and the brain. Special sensors in the skin and deep inside the body help people identify if an object is sharp, rough, or smooth; if it's hot or cold; or if it's standing still or in motion. Sensory nerve damage often results in tingling, numbness, pain, and extreme sensitivity to touch.

    Autonomic nerves control involuntary or semi-voluntary functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and sweating. When the autonomic nerves are damaged, a person's heart may beat faster or slower. They may get dizzy when standing up; sweat excessively; or have difficulty sweating at all. In addition, autonomic nerve damage may result in difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, problems with urination, abnormal pupil size, and sexual dysfunction.

    I personally have damage to some of my sensory and motor peripheral nerves at the L4-S1 region. Which is better is a matter of perspective from my point of view. I'll take numbness over pain anytime for obvious reasons. Numbness doesn't hurt, pain does.
  • They are very clear and good explanations.

    I defo have sensory damage.

    I have some motor damage. Does unsteady gait and uncontrolled movements count as well?

    The autonomic - is where the CES comes from then?

    My numbness is spreading. Scan tomorrow. Will keep you posted.
  • Anonymous said:

    I was wondering if anyone is able to answer my question.

    In terms of a nerve injury, which is worse, numbness or pain or pins needles?

    I have looked this up and can't seem to find an answer but some ppl on the boards have written that numbness is a sign of a worse injury. But I am not really sure.

    Also, when an injured nerve regenerates, does it cause an increase in pain?

    Has anyone experienced this?
    Thank you!
  • Hi, i had decompression surgery 6 month's ago and i am still have all kinds of numbness and tightness in my back, this is what happen when the neurosurgeon got in there. my neck bone blew up like a eggs shell so he had to make me a new neck bone out of some kinds of material. He said that my nerve root was bruised and it would take a year for it to heal up. then 3 months when by and i when back to him telling him that the numbness wasn't getting better and that i was having a lot of tightness in my back so he sent me to hysical therapy. well the hysical therapist took x-rays and i saw them and now my back is locked up. has anyone had the issue out there?

  • cjfmx123 said:

    Anonymous said:

    I was wondering if anyone is able to answer my question. i had my neck fused about 17 months ago and i am still having all kinds of numbness and tightness with my back has anyone ever had this problem?  

  • SukhreSSukhre San Diego, CAPosts: 181
    I truely benefited from this discussion. I rarely have pain over scale 5/10. I used to have tingling feelings, weird sensations like insects crawling on my legs, and also some numbness and stiffness coming and going. As long as I knew they were coming from my neck, I was ok. Now I have this numbness on my butt that would not go away... I am scared it will never be normal. Also I see the most conservative surgeon now feels like I might need to go forward with surgery. Pain is hard to live with. Numbness is scary, because pain feels like temporary (usually decompression or steroid shots would manage the pain). 
    MRI shows C4-C7 severe steonosis. Pain in hand.
  • chop my leg offcchop my leg off British ColumbiaPosts: 56
    I could be wrong but you could have numbness and loss of movement and pain and it doesn't mean the nerves are healing but could also mean the nerve damage is so severe that it's like the nerves are misfiring causing horrible pain.  ????  My surgeon thinks my nerve damage is permanent due to severe compression  L5S1 and the worst pain I have now is where my leg and foot has lost sensory feeling.  
    L5S1..2 microdisectomies in 30 days maybe one more on the agenda. 4 bulged discs and one of them loves my spinal canal X2 :/ and a compression fracture . And now scar tissue wrapped around the nerve causing horrible neuropathy all over again.   VICIOUS CIRCLE :(
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