The differences between nerve and arthritis joint pain

JOINT pain tends to be associated with arthritis, however it could easily be a sign of nerve damage.

Discomfort, soreness and aches can be attributed to arthritis, but nerve pain “can feel like a deep ache, burning pain, shooting pain that sometimes feels sharp”. One of the telling signs of nerve pain is: “Occasionally the skin can feel very sensitive to the extent that the affected individual struggles to wear heavy clothes.” 

Understanding whether the pain you’re in is caused by joint issues or nerve issues is key to better treatments. Other indications can be numbness and pins and needles around the area.

Sometimes nerve pain could in actual fact be an indication of an underlying health condition.

Examples include: diabetes, vitamin deficiency, gout, or sarcoidosis.

Nerve pain can also occur post-surgery or can be a side effect of certain medications.

Any part of the body can be affected by nerve pain. One method of treatment is an interferential machine or a TENS machine. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a method of pain relief involving the use of a mild electrical current.

“A TENS machine is a small, battery-operated device that has leads connected to sticky pads called electrodes.”

The sticky pads are attached to the skin, and when the machine is switch on, small electrical impulses are sent through, causing a tingling sensation.

The NHS explained: “The electrical impulses can reduce the pain signals going to the spinal cord and brain, which may help relieve pain and relax muscles.

Other techniques such as: physiotherapy, osteopath, massage; interferential, acupuncture; and psychological-based therapies can help both nerve and arthritis problems.

Medication for nerves could include “simple analgesics, antidepressants and anti-epileptics that calm down nerves”.

The symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Joint pain, tenderness and stiffness
  • Inflammation in and around the joints
  • Restricted movement of the joints
  • Warm red skin over the affected joint
  • Weakness and muscle wasting.

Nerve pain is less responsive to stretching, however both respond gentle exercise, warm baths, and getting adequate rest.

Home remedies for both arthritis and nerve pain include following an anti-inflammatory balanced diet.

Foods rich in omega-3 are welcomed, as is lifestyle habits such as drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol or nicotine.

If you are experiencing ongoing pain, and you’re not sure if it’s arthritis or nerve damage then an experienced chartered physiotherapist can assess you and identify the cause .