When it comes to identifying the cause of joint pain, nerve related joint pain is frequently overlooked. Quite often, patients are told by multiple physicians that nothing is wrong with their hip/knee/ankle or shoulder, but that is not the case.
Nerve related joint pain differs from that of orthopedic joint pain, and that is why it can be hard to diagnose. Nerve pain is not something that shows up on MRIs or X-Rays, however, the pain persists.
Symptoms of Nerve-related Joint Pain
Patients with nerve pain most often describe it as a burning pain, electric shock pain, or zinging pain that radiates away from the joint. They are often woken up by the pain. The skin over the joint can be extremely sensitive to touch.
When patients are left questioning how to manage their chronic joint pain, nerve surgery could be a potential solution. Our surgeons at the Institute for Advanced Reconstruction may be able to treat your joint pain even if it does not involve nerve pain, but this varies on a patient-to-patient basis.
New Jersey Native, Jane Custer, had surgery on her knee following a bad skiing accident. She went to her orthopedic surgeon following surgery because her pain persisted. Jane couldn’t walk normally, and her steppage gait was off, meaning that she could not lift her leg as usual while walking. Jane’s orthopedic surgeon suggested she see Dr. Adam Saad, MD, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the Institute for Advanced Reconstruction.
Dr. Saad spoke to Jane during her consult and explained he would perform a “Tinel exam.” Through a series of tests, he looked for spots that were tender when he tapped at the joint. If that test is positive for patients, he then injects numbing medication to see if the patient experiences relief. If the patients’ pain is relieved, it is likely that removing the nerve will solve the pain issue they are experiencing.
Jane agreed that surgery would likely be the solution for her nerve pain, so she moved forward and had a surgical procedure called joint denervation of the knee. Denervation involves removing the nerves that are supplying the skin overlying the knee. Oftentimes, patients come in experiencing pain following joint surgery or an accident due to nerves being trapped in the scar tissue – this is called nerve entrapment. During the surgical procedure, the nerve is located, removed from the area where it is causing pain, and put into a muscle. All types of joint pain may be able to be treated with this type of surgery.
Jane felt great relief and immediately noticed a difference following her surgery. She is happy to be back on her feet and feeling well enough to ski with her family again!