Physical injuries or any form of trauma, such as car accidents, falls, or sport injuries can cause injury to a nerve by creating a stretch, compression or crushing injury. Nerves can also be severed or forcefully detached from the spinal cord, either partially or completely. Less severe traumas, such as fractured or dislocated bones, can cause serious nerve damage by exerting pressure on neighboring nerves. Disc herniations, protrusions and bulges between vertebrae can compress nerve fibers where they emerge from the spinal cord, thereby damaging the nerve and creating neuropathic pain. These are but a few types of injury that may induce neuropathy.
Often times, we do not think of a surgery as a bodily trauma or injury, but it is. Any time you have disruption to tissues of the body, whether intentional or accidental, the body processes the mechanism as an assault on the tissue. As such, the body will go through the same cascade of healing. That being said, it’s not uncommon for neuropathy to develop as a side effect of surgery. During the course of surgery, nerves may become damaged, either directly (nerve is severed or nicked) or indirectly (bruising of the nerve or inflammation of the tissue surrounding the nerve leading to nerve compression). For example, patient positioning, during a surgical procedure, can lead to an indirect cause of neuropathy. Maintaining a patient in a prolonged position can hamper circulation and deprive the nerve of oxygen and necessary nutrients. These prolonged periods of positioning can also create an abnormal stretch or compression on the nerve. Any of these effects can lead to nerve damage.
Symptoms of surgical nerve injury can include numbness and tingling or a burning pain, which may be moderate to severe. The symptoms may occur at the surgical site or in the standard areas one typically observes peripheral neuropathy (i.e.; feet and legs, hands and arms). Sometimes a person will notice that the symptoms may worsen with specific motions or movements or while sleeping at night.