Nerve injuries can occur from a variety of conditions, disorders, or dysfunctions. From direct trauma to an underlying condition such as diabetes or arthritis, the peripheral nerves are most commonly the ones at a higher risk of suffering from damage or injury. Nerve injuries require a gradual process of treatments and the healing time in which the nerve can regenerate relies on the extent of the nerve damage and type of injury.
Every nerve that makes up the peripheral nervous system consists of Schwann cells and axons. There are two types of nerves: myelinated and unmyelinated. In the myelinated nerves, the Schwann cells cover every axon, known as the sheath formation, while in the unmyelinated nerves, the Schwann cells cover the grouped axons. The axons protected by the sheath formation also contain a second layer, known as the endoneurium.
There are various types of nerve injuries that can be classified according to their severity but one type of nerve injury, although referred to as the least severe, can still present discomfort in the affected individual.
Neuropraxia is a milder form of nerve injury where the nerve transmissions are completely blocked or interrupted but the nerve fibers, including the axon and protective sheath that make up the nerve, remain intact. The main cause for this condition is bone fracture or dislocation due to the nerve being suddenly stretched. In rare cases, neuropraxia can also occur as a result of blunt injury or prolonged pressure on the nerve. The most common signs and symptoms for neuropraxia include impairment or loss of normal motor or sensory function, weakness or paralysis of the muscles, abnormal sensations such as numbness, tingling, or burning sensations, and pain along the affected region of the nerve.
When it comes to nerve injuries where the nerve has not been severed, such as neuropraxia, the healing process is gradual and can regenerate over the course of time. It is also possible to reduce the symptoms of the condition.
Physical therapy can be an essential treatment option for people recovering from nerve injuries. Before beginning therapy, a specialist might prevent active movements surrounding the affected extremity, following with a set of focused, passive movements to maintain the normal range of motion and avoid the atrophy of the muscles that could result from a damaged nerve. As the nerve begins to heal, the physical therapist will progressively increase the level of activity until the person can confidently move to more active movements until the damaged or injured nerve heals completely and the symptoms disappear.
By Dr. Alex Jimenez