Is Diabetic Neuropathy Causing My Back Pain?

Is Diabetic Neuropathy Causing My Back PainMost adults will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives, whether it is caused by degenerative joint damage, a traumatic injury, or simply spending too much time at a desk in an unnatural position. For those suffering from diabetic neuropathy, this back pain may feel like a symptom of your larger concerns, or like an added burden. You may wonder if your current diabetic neuropathy treatment can help with this back pain and what the link is between these forms of pain. The two are likely connected, and understanding your condition can help you determine the best way to treat your nerve pain.

What Is Diabetic Neuropathy?

Neuropathy is a general term for a variety of conditions that involve damage to the peripheral nervous system, which sends messages between your brain, spinal cord, and the rest of your body. In many cases, there is no single known cause of neuropathy. However, in those who suffer from diabetes, this can be a direct cause of nerve damage classified as neuropathy. The high blood sugar or glucose in people with diabetes can lead to nerve injuries throughout the body, particularly in the legs and feet.

The nerves in the feet and legs are most susceptible because they are small and far from the spinal cord. As the damage worsens, the pain or numbness will travel up the nerves to the legs or other areas. Pain in the back likely means nerve damage from diabetes has escalated past the early stages and needs attention.

As many as 50% of people with diabetes, type 1 or 2, can be impacted by diabetic neuropathy. Symptoms include pain and numbness in the legs and feet, problems with the digestive system or urinary tract, heart issues, or blood vessel disturbances. These may be mild or severe. When other nerves are impacted, more parts of the body may experience pain.

There are four main types of diabetic neuropathy, each impacting different sets of nerves. Proximal neuropathy will focus on the thighs, hips, or buttocks, while focal neuropathy affects another specific site. Autonomic neuropathy is specific to the autonomic nervous system and impacts bodily functions and the nerves of the gastrointestinal, urinary, genital, or vascular systems. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is the specific damage to peripheral nerves that is the most likely to lead to back pain.

Diabetic Neuropathy and Back Pain

What you need to understand about back pain and neuropathy is that in some cases, a back injury can actually be the cause of peripheral neuropathy that develops in response. However, in diabetic neuropathy, the root cause is known to be the condition of diabetes itself. But diabetes is actually linked to back pain as well.

This link may be for non-neuropathy-related reasons. For instance, those with diabetes are likely to be overweight, putting extra pressure on the spine and leading to back pain. Poor bone health can also result from diabetes and an increased risk for fractures in the spine. In the case of diabetic neuropathy, the nerve damage that characterizes the illness can cause back pain. While you should evaluate other factors, including lifestyle and activity, diabetic neuropathy may be the cause of your back pain and can be addressed during your diabetic neuropathy treatment.

The Importance of Early Treatment

With any condition, early treatment is critical, but diabetic neuropathy is particularly helped by early intervention. By the time you are noticing symptoms like back pain, it means there is likely nerve damage that has already occurred and your focus will be on preventing future problems and stopping the issue from worsening.

If diabetic neuropathy treatment is not sought, serious damage to the central nervous system can occur, making your back pain and other symptoms chronic and irreversible. This can also exacerbate other health conditions that are commonly seen in diabetes patients, like insomnia, depression, or anxiety. And of course, your back pain will worsen or continue.

Treating diabetic neuropathy can help to prevent nerve damage that causes back pain, but the reverse can also be true. Injuries to the back, especially the nerve tissue, can cause neuropathy to develop or flare-up, especially in those with risk factors like diabetes. Signs of back pain are a good reason to seek treatment and ensure there has not been nerve damage that can lead to neuropathy in the future.