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.

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62 thoughts on “The nerves they burn burn burn

    1. I enjoyed reading that! I have experienced this nerve/burning pain through fibro & trauma … my partner had a horrific bike accident & he feels it’s day & night so Iv just read this to him & it brought a little light!

      1. I’m not sure if we like sharing medication information. I don’t let pills define me, but I recognize that certain ones do help after our biochemistry changes to such an extent that alternative approaches are not effective. I recently began taking Lamictal. It not only greatly reduces the burning in my hips and legs, but has depression/anxiety effects as well. I’m 11 years post injury, however the past 13 months were hell. Feel free to message me anytime.

  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.

    1. I hope that day comes Sigourney and that your nerves continue to heal. I’m impressed by your progress so far and send you many healing thoughts and wishes. Hope you keep reading -AB

  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!

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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

      3. 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!

      4. 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 🙂

      5. 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

      6. 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 🙂

      7. 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: Best to you -AB

    1. 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!!!

      1. 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?

    1. 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 time i feel some streng movements on my arm like electrical movements.can it be a healing sign of the nerves in my arm?

    1. 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

    2. how r u now…my daughter involved an accident also ,her upper arm injured deeply. she feel burning…numbness and tingling..are that sign of nerve healing. no sensation and movement on her, it is already three weeks after the accident.

  10. I have a nerve injury (sensory nerve) in my hand from getting bit by a dog in my wrist.. I too have burning and weird sensations like crawling or something moving around under my skin. I also have numbness in my index finger to the palm of my hand. It has gotten somewhat better so, I hope this is a good sign for me.. I’m praying!

  11. Hey Ash. Your story is amazing and inspiring 🙂
    I was involved in a car accident and had disc replacement surgery done between my C5 and 6. I am post op now and healing. This burning sensation you describe- did you experience it throughout the day or just at night?

    I get a sensation in my hands during the night which keeps me from sleeping. I’m not sure if it is burning, but i literally shake my hand to try and get rid of it and it is annoying to the point i want to get out of bed and scream.

    1. The sensation I got came and went. Sometimes if I touch my arm lightly or try to prompt it, I can get it to happen but it’s not just there all the time. I wouldn’t say it was pain necessarily that made me want to scream, but for me it felt more like itchiness and wanting to scratch my arms to relieve the burning. -AB

  12. I just want to comment on the previous posts that mention that being young and having so many health issues is in some way not right. Of course, if I had the power to heal, I would make all right with those who suffer illness. But, it seems to me, the young in general have more positive attitudes to deal with the challenges of illness than older people do. The great innovations and improvements in treatment and therapy will come from their demands and unwillingness to settle for current treatments and therapy. Arash is a great example of the way to respond to a health challenge. Set big goals, work at them incrementally, have patience (tempered with some impatience to keep you pushing hard), and rejoice at every small improvement. And, like Arash, connect to anyone and everyone who can give you positive energy and information on how to move forward in your recovery. Do not settle for negative assessments of your ability to recover. And share, share, share everything that helps or does not work. I have worked in the field of neurology for 50 years and seen so many advances in treatment, it amazes me. I have been extremely fortunate to have good health all my life, but having worked with many, many patients who have had life threatening brain tumors, seizures, traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, genetic brain disorders, I have a good feel for what you are going through. The patients who responded best to therapy and treatments were those who had fight in them and those who were positive instead of negative in their attitudes. You are in the vanguard of the next wave of big breakthroughs in treatment of neurological disorders.

    1. Thank you for sharing your insightful comments. It’s great to hear from you especially considering how much experience you have. Positive thinking and working towards our goals are things I root my entire recovery upon. Thanks for reading -AB

  13. The burning sensation is very uncomfortable but still think positive,especially now after reading the above.I’m taking high doses of B12 to help the healing.I won’t give up.Some days are better than others and riding my bike helps a lot .Also ,good nutrition is very important trying to get those omega 3s in my diet every day.

  14. I was un aware of the burning while healing from major Neck surgery in 2011. The first time it happened I was shaving. It was in my right trap muscle. It almost brought me to my knees. Had no idea what it was. Ran into my friend the next day and he explained. He told me he had the same thing while recovering from a motorcycle accident. It was pretty bad however. Would come from out of nowhere.
    Any way it passed after a week or so.
    Embrace it? Ahh no it sucked.. lol

  15. How is it possible that the burning can also feel cold? I have nerve damage on my left arm and it is like a chill sensation down my entire arm. Any experiences with this?

    1. I also have nerve damage to my left arm and I’m at the later stages of the healing process – I also have an icey burn. I think it’s a good sign. Stay positive. And Arash, you’re amazing.

    2. After my traumatic brain injury (TBI) the whole right side of my body was numb. I remember going into the shower and the hot water felt like icicles hitting my leg. After about a year 95% of the numbness was gone. I haven’t asked myself what physiologically makes that cold sensation. Now I’m curious. Unfortunately, I went on to develop a rather severe pain syndrome 4 years post-injury, for no apparent reason. Now I have shooting, burning pain down both of my legs more often than not. But I’m back in college, have a good team of medical professionals. That sorta thing. All my best Tamara!

  16. I’m 7 weeks po from PF, Baxter Nerve, Tarcell Tunnel release, Achillis and calf tendon extension and bone spur removed, just this week the burning started, glad to know this is a normal part of the healing process, it’s annoying as most, hopefully it won’t last too long.

  17. Arash thanks for sharing. How are you doing now? Did your nerves continue to heal? How long has it been since injury? Thanks for sharing your journey and positive attitude — ES

    1. Thanks for asking. Slowly but surely improving, many years in. Still working hard and finding improvements. There isn’t much new with my nerves these days and many of those burning sensations have passed but things do continue to change and progress. -AB

  18. greetings. my mother was suffering from sciatica. she got to physiotherapist and now its a lot of burning down the leg. can we say the nerve is healing? the burning sensation starts after physiotherapy sessions.

  19. Arash, are you still experiencing the burning sensations to this day? I’ve had burning sensations in my left arm for the last three months but they are very intermittent, once went one month with no burning sensation at all. It keeps coming and going though. No doctor can tell me what’s going on. Someone suggested it could be an inflamed nerve. How are you progressing today? Thanks for sharing your story..

  20. I appreciate the post. I am going through a similar experience as I underwent spinal surgery just a little over a month ago. Your description of the pain changing to burning is exactly what I’m experiencing today.

    So, I’ll latch on to the way you view the burning fires during the healing process.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

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