The nerves they burn burn burn

Less than 10 days after my injury, upon admission to inpatient rehab in a new hospital, I was on my way to get X-rays when the technician started chatting with me. Although I was running a consistent 101 degree fever and still very heavily medicated, I was able to describe him the basics of my injury. “Do you have any burning yet?” he asked me, to which I told him no with a befuddled look. He followed up and said, “I’ve had nerve damage dude, it will heal over time but wait ’til you get the burning. That’s a trip.” A few weeks later, in mid-August, I realized what he meant and started to feel the burning in my forearms.

The vertebra I had broken in my accident were in charge of the nerves that run down the forearms and through the fingertips. As a result, the first signs of those nerves healing was an intense burning sensation through my arms and fingers. It’s difficult to describe exactly, but I would say it feels like a string that’s on fire running through the length of my forearm which then branches off into my fingers. The intense burning feels like it’s just below the surface of my skin, almost like an itch, so I naturally scratch that area thinking that it will help it somehow, but it never really does much. It occurs randomly, lasts for a few minutes but sometimes much longer and since there’s little I can do about it, I have no choice but to accept it. It definitely hurts but more than anything, it’s a very strange sensation, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Doctors told me this is normal and an indication that those nerves are healing and regenerating. I’ve had the burning in my arms and fingers for the last four months or so, but it occurs less frequently than it used to. Now I’ve started to feel a similar burning sensation (but not as itchy) in my abs and low back, which makes sense if you think my spinal cord is healing from the top down and now reaching those levels in my mid-body where I have about 60-70% sensation. While it’s an odd feeling, I do somewhat appreciate the burning since it’s an indication of healing. Now I try to embrace this burning and imagine that the fires burning in each millimeter of my body are happy fires that are bringing my body back to normal.

33 thoughts on “The nerves they burn burn burn

  1. Arash – you were inspiring to me when I met you in Norway (and of course the best BR leader ever!) and you still continue to inspire and awe me! I am so sorry to hear about your accident but your are such a strong, positive person – I know you will exceed all your expectations in everything you do. I am thinking of you and wish you all the best in your recovery – stay strong!
    Sam Pedersen

  2. this is exciting! I love your positive attitude and constant invitation for healing. Ive always been amazed at the body’s ability to heal. You’re on a journey upward and as you keep climbing you will reach new heights. keep it up and feel the burn. Burn, baby, burn! or as I say when Im working out really hard- “bbq abs”. I guess you could translate to “bbq spine”.

  3. Arash- excellent visualization work here… and your ability to embrace and not resist the pain and burning – phenomenal. Healing thoughts your way today – and always! RL

  4. Hola this is Claudia from the Raider game. After reading what’s happening to ya I’m glad to hear you have the burning sensation! Hopefully soon you’ll be back to 100%. Hope you enjoyed the game :)

  5. A family friend sent me a link to your blog. I had an accident that left me with a moderate/severe head injury. Though . . . it’s invisible, so even months afterward, most people wouldn’t have a clue anything was majorly up with my whole CNS. And now it’s been 6 years, two of which I’ve had neuropathy. So I read this post especially and know exactly what that burning sensation feels like. It’s all over my neck and back, but it used to be most frustrating on my forearms. My neurologist tells me the same thing: that they view the burning as part of recovery. In my case it has not abated a single day since Fall 2010. And other than my brain injury status, nothing abnormal shows up on my head or cervical MRIs. Yet, reading this post gave me hope. That maybe one day (perhaps sooner than later) the burning will spontaneously disappear just as it perplexingly entered my life.

  6. About 6 months after reconstructive surgery after breast cancer I started getting “the burn” and zinging! Mind you I was 16, so I’d be sitting in chemistry class and it would feel like part of my breast was on fire with SHARP electric shocks going through it! I would always kinda jump and gasp out of discomfort. And the only person who knew what was going on was my best friend, because really a self conscious 16 year old girl isn’t going to announce to the whole school, “oh yeah, it’s nothing! Just feels like I’m being shocked and set on fire cause I’m a freak of nature!”

    Years later, I was able to describe to my medical students what it was like as a patient to live through it, and I proudly showed off my pre and post op pictures!

    • Wow, that is amazingly young. While I’m 23 and my pain began at 21, I was in college and that’s a much better atmosphere to explain such things (though I get frustrated when I feel misunderstood, it happens frequently). Your humor delights me! Yes, at times I’m able to do the same. My state of mind and body changes so frequently. Unfortunately, a friend of mine was in a car accident and suffered a head trauma worse than mine. But she’s back in school now and I’m especially proud of her. Some people say I’m too young to experience such health issues. But that’s not my vantage point. I feel one must accept life, however it comes to you. And I’m so happy to have found this blog and to connect with similar persons! All my best.

      • I can be just as witty and funny in person too. Except it’s just part of the verbal diarrhea that goes hand in hand with ADHD and Bipolar. I don’t have a filter between my brain and my mouth. I’m just glad that for the most part I end up being funny!

        But yes, I LOVE when doctors tell me I’m too young to have all the health issues I have/had. It’s like, you know, tell that to my body, cause it sure as hell doesn’t listen to me! And trust me, I talk to myself a lot. And I do tend to answer myself. And I know I’m crazy. I have the court documents that certified me!

        I’ve learned that humor tends to be the best way to deal with this stuff.

      • Totally. I’ve had some terrible events myself in 2012. And even though fundamentally it’s serious, you just gotta find something to laugh at. As I was just explaining to my Mongolian friend (I laughed at Arash’s post where he mentions speaking in Mongolian) that injury to my frontal lobe DOES contribute to my impulsivity and occasional obsessive thinking. I was a hyperactive, high-functioning child, so a bit of me was born that way, but the TBI escalates that in a way. For the most part I’m silly but have good self-control. Glad I never had a reason to take up drinking . . . like I tell people, I’m naturally crazy. lol. But I don’t feel I have any clinical mood disorders. I mean I see a therapist, but I’m learning to think, “hey, I’m different and that’s okay. In fact, it makes life more AWESOME”. ~blessings

      • Sometimes finding the humor makes it all just a little bit easier to live with! I wish you luck! Oh, I’m ADHD and Bipolar manic….so I totally get the hyperactive! It’s why I have no filter between my brain and my mouth! I believe my husband just may be a saint for staying with me for the past two years!

      • He must be a great partner, no doubt. But I think the vast majority of people can find romance and someone who compliments them, regardless of situation. I would not look down at you for your conditions at all! Many people are extremely hard to live with and they don’t have any medical reasons. Lol. Glad you are happy :)

      • He is a great partner. Not without faults of his own, though. He struggles dealing with everything. Mostly because he sees it as all negative. That and he can’t do anything to make me better. He doesn’t understand that sometimes I just need to talk about it. But, I love him and he does his best! And that’s all I could ever ask for! P.S. We only found each other two years ago…we are first spouses for each other lol

      • Hey that’s great! And two years is still short, many of my friends (different relationship I know) I’ve known for over a decade and still feeling like I’m getting to know them. Because everyone changes over time. My only hope would be that you try out making a list how benefits/positive aspects of your ailments. Slowly, you can start introducing the concepts to him, without judgment. It seems like he’s the type of feller who would catch on :)

      • I am happy to have connected with you too! It seems that age has little to do with some conditions and the healthiest and youngest of us are affected in the most dramatic ways. I would be happy to connect with you and learn more about your situation. Feel free to email me if you like: abayat491@gmail.com. Best to you -AB

    • Its amazing because now that I read this post again I really think it would be good for me to get a whole spinal MRI. Thankfully the burning in my forearms is less painful today. Mostly it’s super distracting.

      I’ve never felt my hair follicles, like when you get goose bumps. As Arash says, it’s anything but a normal sensation. I reckon it can only be felt after nerve damage.

      Had an elderly lady sympathetically tell me the “You’re too young to have health issues”. But I think this is representative of society’s misleading expectations. Also the poor understanding of the current development and research in medicine; there is still so much we don’t know!!!

      • Definitely still too much that we don’t know. I hate the fact that I’m young and have to deal with all these health issues too, but that’s just the way it is I suppose. Now it’s just a matter of getting better -AB

  7. My wife has ALS, I know they say no one recovers but we have & are doing things no one else are.for one we have been on a high fat, low
    Carb, ketogenic diet. For almost 2 years. Some symptoms are better, unheard of in als. But now her feet seam to be burning when she walls too much. Is this a sign of nerve regeneration?

    • I wish I could tell you but my knowledge is pretty limited to my own injury and other people with Spinal Cord Injury. I’m happy to hear that you’re taking matters into your own hands and achieving results. Good luck and feel free to share any discoveries. -AB

  8. Thanks for writing this. I broke my c7 about 7 months ago. My left arm is burning. Good to know its healing. Did you ever feel a almost rhythmic vibration in your groin. Not as fun as it sounds. Its on the same side as the burning arm.

  9. i was involved in road traffic accident last year in august and my arm and leg were broken.only good the leg is now walking but my arm is not raising up.at time i feel some streng movements on my arm like electrical movements.can it be a healing sign of the nerves in my arm?

    • I don’t have the knowledge to say yes or no but I would think that any sign of tingling or burning is a sign that SOMETHING is happening in your body. Listen to it, trust your instincts and see what happens next. -AB

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