Your nerves connect your brain to your body. When you suffer nerve damage, you can encounter many symptoms, including pain and loss of dexterity.
As a result of nerve damage, you might require medical treatment, physical therapy, and medication. While you care for your health, you might have to miss work or even change jobs.
Learn about the causes and symptoms of nerve damage as well as the compensation you can seek for this condition.
The nervous system includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. The brain controls your nervous system. It gathers information from your senses and uses nerve impulses to control your organs and muscles.
Two sets of nerves connect to your brain. Your cranial nerves control the muscles in your head for chewing and making facial expressions, and they also connect to the sense organs in your head — the tongue, ears, nose, and eyes.
Your spinal cord also connects to your brain. The spinal cord carries the nerve signals to all the muscles and organs below your neck. Your nerves also carry signals from your skin to your brain to provide information about temperature, pressure, and texture.
The spinal cord branches out into nerve roots at each vertebra in your spine. Each nerve root contains a bundle of nerves for a region of the body or a group of organs. For example, a nerve root in your neck controls your right hand and arm. There are 31 nerve root pairs that branch out from your spinal cord into 43 pairs of peripheral nerves.
Nerve damage usually refers to injuries to the peripheral nerves, cranial nerves, or nerve roots. When you injure your nerves, they cannot conduct nerve signals. There are five degrees of nerve damage. The degree of nerve damage determines the amount of function you have and the treatment options available.
First- or second-degree nerve damage usually heals on its own because the nerve only has a temporary conduction problem. This usually happens when a nerve gets compressed by something dislocating and pinching the nerve.
Third-, fourth-, and fifth-degree nerve damage requires surgical repair because the nerve has been permanently injured. This happens when a nerve gets stretched, torn, or severed.
In some cases, doctors can repair damaged nerves through nerve grafts. They can also relieve the pressure on compressed nerves by surgically removing the tissue pressing on the nerve. But nerves do not regrow on their own. If doctors cannot repair the nerve surgically, you could face permanent disability.
Nerve damage can happen in a number of ways. Lacerations and penetrating injuries, bone fractures, disc injuries, inflammation, and burns are the most common causes.
Lacerations, abrasions, and other penetrating injuries can sever nerves. The nerve cells lose connection with each other and cannot conduct nerve signals. Sensory signals cannot travel to the brain, and control signals cannot travel from the brain. This results in a loss of sensitivity to temperature and pressure and a loss of dexterity.
For example, if you suffer a deep cut or even a road rash on your leg from a motorcycle accident, you might sever and stretch the nerves. As a result, you will suffer nerve damage symptoms below the leg injury, like numbness and weakness in your foot.
The broken ends of the bone can displace when a bone is fractured. As they displace, they can stretch and tear soft tissue, including muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. The damaged nerves will not carry nerve signals below the injury.
Pressure on your spine can deform the discs between the vertebrae. When the discs get deformed, they can herniate or bulge. A herniated disc occurs when the material inside the disc squeezes out. A bulging disc sags as the walls of the disc weaken.
In either case, the deformed disc can press on a nerve root near the spine. The pressure on the nerve root can cause the nerves to inflame.
Doctors do not have many options for treating disc injuries. They might inject anti-inflammatory drugs into the inflamed nerve root. They can also remove the damaged disc. After removal, doctors can replace the damaged disc with an artificial disc or fuse together the vertebrae adjacent to the missing disc.
Injuries cause inflammation in your tissues. This inflammation is your body’s defense against infection. Tissues swell to cut off circulation to the injury, trapping any harmful microorganisms in the injured area.
When injured tissue swells, it compresses the nerve, which leads to nerve inflammation.
The inflamed nerve misfires, causing symptoms like:
The nerve problems that come from this compression will usually go away after the swelling subsides.
Burns occur when a chemical reaction destroys tissue.
Burns can take many forms, including:
When nerves are burned, they no longer function correctly. A damaged nerve can produce excruciating pain because it is still sending some signals to the brain. But if the nerve is destroyed, you will lose all sensation. This is why third-degree burns cause no pain while second- or first-degree burns cause severe pain.
You can seek compensation for nerve damage that resulted from someone else’s negligence. But to get compensation, you must prove causation. Causation means you can establish a factual and legal link between your nerve damage and the defendant’s breach of duty.
If an accident damaged your nerves, you could prove causation. You can even prove causation if your nerve damage was a natural result of your injuries. For example, suppose that you broke your ankle in an accident and the broken bones damaged the nerves running to your foot. You can establish causation.
Nerve damage might produce permanent disabilities. You might need medical treatment, physical therapy, and medication to cope with the effects of nerve damage. To learn about the compensation you can seek for the impact of your nerve damage, contact our firm Oresky & Associates, PLLC for a free consultation.