Fibromyalgia Nerve Pain: Paresthesias

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It might be an odd numb spot on your back, a hand that gets tingly, or a foot that burns so bad you can't bear to take a step. Those are all nerve sensations called paresthesias, which can also make you itch or give you a crawling sensation. Paresthesia is common in those of us with fibromyalgia, and it's also associated with peripheral neuropathy, chemotherapy drugs, multiple sclerosis and migraine.

I have a lot of paresthesias, all over the place. I can't handle even the lightest touch on some spots on my back and legs, and it's not because of allodynia -- it's because of a sensation I can only describe as an intensely painful "tickle." My rheumatologist/acupuncturist was stunned at how sensitive a spot on my back was during one session; I'd jump when she got about an inch from my skin, even though I couldn't see her hand. I also have milder ones, like some numb spots on my left foot and random tingles in my hands.

Paresthesias don't seem to make sense. They're typically associated with damaged nerves, which isn't part of fibromyalgia (though it's common in some overlapping conditions.) So why do we get them? Nobody knows for sure, but 2 likely candidates, based on what we know of the condition, are:

  1. Central Sensitization: over-active central nervous system believed to be at the core of fibromyalgia.
  1. Ischemia: essentially, when a body part "falls asleep" due to low blood flow. We're all familiar with the pain of the blood returning to a foot that's asleep (call reperfusion), and some researchers believe that's behind at least some fibromyalgia pain.

When paresthesias aren't painful or disruptive, they're not something that needs treated.

When they are painful, you've got several treatment options, which you can learn about in the Painful Paresthesias section of 7 Types of Fibromyalgia Pain.

The doctors most likely to understand paresthesias and how to treat them are neurologists. My neurologist actually told me, "No one believes in these things except us neurologists, 'cause we see them all the time."

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