View Full Version : "Nerves firing"; what does it mean?

01-18-2009, 11:49 PM
Hi everyone,

Could someone explain to me what it means, “The nerves are firing”.

My surgeon’s RN told me in my pre-op appointment that I could have stabbing pains in my thighs during or up to 3-months. Numbness, etc., included. I asked her if this was because the spine was going to be readjusted (in my case lengthened because of the artificial discs) and then nerves were being pushed? She said, no, it would be because the nerves would be “firing”. I just left it at that.

Now, I have had some of these symptoms… some sciatic stuff in the last week or so, and while I walk, some pretty sharp pains in the back, legs, and foot. And just so you know, I have every faith in my surgeon and RN, and due to the physical progress I have been making every day, I have no doubts that I will have come out of this entire process better than how I was before.

I really wish I knew what it was that she was saying. The nerves firing bit. You see, I am walking more and more, and moving around so much better, and my strength seems to be coming back slowly. So as I walk, I wonder… when I feel a pain… is this a sign of “nerves firing”. I have this feeling like I should just continue to walk… and I do, and soon after I feel better. Tonight is a good example. On and off the whole day (for some time now) various pains and some strange sensations in the legs. Sometimes weakness, but then after a short sit… more strength.

What does this mean, “the nerves are firing”, and how does it relate to pain/recovery?

Thanks, folks!

loves to skate
01-19-2009, 09:22 AM
"Nerves firing" I believe means that the nerves are trying to regenerate and they cause all kinds of sensations in the process.

01-19-2009, 02:31 PM
"Nerves firing" I believe means that the nerves are trying to regenerate and they cause all kinds of sensations in the process.

So Sally, IYO, this would in essence be a good thing, right?

01-20-2009, 03:39 AM
Hi Paul,

I could be wrong (because I am not a doctor, nurse, or medical worker in any capacity), but can offer you my understanding of how the nerve stuff works, & what your nurse might have (or might not have!) meant....

A nerve cell "firing" essentially means it's generating electrical impulses, one of the ways to communicate with nearby nerve cells. It's how the nerve cells in your brain, spinal cord, & throughout your body convey messages among themselves & to other areas (muscles, organs, etc.). Nerve cells firing is a very good thing! :D

A "nerve" as such is actually bundle of nerve cells - specifically, the very long parts (axons) of nerve cells that transmit the electrical signals from your brain, via the spinal cord, & on to, say, a muscle. So, yep, a nerve "firing" means that it's trying to communicate with whatever tissue is nearby (sharp pains usually means it's attached to a muscle).

My understanding is that in the case of spinal surgery, it's not uncommon to suffer moderate injury to the axons that make up a nerve - often due to the stretching of the nerves (esp. relevant to scoli correction & disc replacement). This kind of injury is usually accompanied by loss of or reduced sensation in the area the nerve terminates in, with possible loss of motor (motion/strength) control, depending on the type of nerve/s involved.

I'm unsure of quite what order things happen in, but as the nerve axons regenerate, the nerve can indeed send painful signals to where the nerve terminates (usually a muscle, when it stings/burns/feels like an electric shock). I had these in lessening frequency & intensity actually for a couple of years, esp. after my first surgery. Related or not, happily, they were also accompanied by a slow return of sensation (in most areas, anyway). Nerves “firing” & causing pain is often "just" a normal order of nerves regenerating from a very big trauma!

Now...all that said - there can be other reasons for nerves to be firing & causing pain, esp. after spinal surgery. For example, I've had a lot of "nerve pain" this time around, where sharp, shooting pains have been going down my legs - due to swelling (from 2 vertebral osteotomies) pressing on the relevant nerves, the nerves have been firing rapidly & frequently, causing major muscle spasms (hence the pain). This has slowly been settling down in my left leg, & has again been accompanied by (mostly) a return in sensation & strengthening of the muscle (probably helped by using the muscle more, too). In the last couple of days, my right leg has really flared again with these nerve pains, & I wonder if these nerves, too, aren't having a change in swelling affecting them & will have sensation return. For me, sitting is a much better position than lying down & lying in some positions triggers many more "nerve pains" for me than others. So, I guess these nerves weren't "damaged" & aren't regenerating in the above sense, but as you see, there can be a number of causes of pain from "nerves firing".

I hope this makes some sense & answers your questions some. And I do apologise it’s gotten long again, but I really don’t have the energy to go back & edit sorry! Please do remember though, I'm not trained in any medical field. Do you have another appointment soon, when you could ask the nurse or your doc more about this? If it is really bothering you, pain from nerves can be controlled with various meds - the valium you mentioned over yonder should help with any of the "nerve pain” type pains like mine though (but if you feel they're uncontrolled, see if your doc might be willing to change the med or up the dose temporarily).

Congrats on so much walking - hope it does wonders for your recovery :) Using the muscles will for sure help you regain strength, balance, etc. - but you're right, the strange sensations may be nerves firing oddly, regenerating, adjusting, any or all of that jazz ;)

Best wishes. I hope the "nerve firing" starts settling for you very soon now.

01-20-2009, 04:00 AM

My brain's entirely lost it on me & I can't find your other thread to reply to your post I read earlier (before fallling asleep again, lol). I'm sorry you had such a bad experience at another forum, but I hope you're starting to feel welcome here :) I can totally understand feeling "gun-shy" after such a harsh experience. I'm glad you're well away from your dodgy doc, & it sounds like you're doing great. I think you mentioned working out your meds so they're more effective, & walking / stair-climbing more each day. Great work :D It sounds like you're doing a fabulous job & your body is feeling a little more healed each day. Congrats!

I'm sorry this isn't really a proper reply, but just can't for the life of me find your post again right now, lol :o

Take care.
[BTW - I really do apologise if I'm getting your name wrong here sorry - my brain's quite jumbled at the moment & it's the only one coming to mind for you! :o]

01-20-2009, 01:15 PM
Hey Dis!

Don't you dare change or edit one word! <smile> I read with great interest, and will mull this over during my “day” here.

My next appointment is going to be March 5.

I appreciate that you are not a medical professional, etc. I’m just looking for some explanation and some understanding. My spine was in fact readjusted. My RN said that because the discs had sort of “flattened”, when the cages (artificial discs) were inserted they would bring the vertebra back to where they would have normally been. It was during this period of discussion that she mentioned I could have pains in my thighs for up to 3-months.

As much as I love her, and my surgeon, what I do not like about the medical profession in general is the lack of straight-forward answers to straight-forward questions. It’s almost as if they have been trained on how to not answer questions directly. But I digress!

At this point, I am on my 12th week out. Way back when I was discussing the surgery with my surgeon, and back when we were considering replacing ONE disc, my Doc’ mentioned 3 – 6 month recovery. Then after a Discogram, when it was determined TWO discs would need to be replaced, I barely recall someone mentioning 6 – 9 months recovery. So with a multi-level fusion, I figured, hey, ok.

No one told me, or even hinted, at how long my pain-levels would continue after the surgery. I had been in severe pain for about a year prior to the surgery. Now, I’m not criticizing!

I asked my RN straight-out, “Is the reason no-one specifically states how long one might be in pain, because you don’t want to implant a suggestion into one’s mind?”

She said, “Yes.”

So since I have started to have some sciatic pain “turn on” at 11 – 12 weeks out, I recall her “nerve firing” comment.

So now that I am better understanding this phenomena, I can more easily accept and deal with, what I am going through.

It’s also a balancing act between that AND trying to determine how adding walking-laps, adding stair-stepping, etc., affects me, and I can tell you I DID overdo it some yesterday cause I was hurting when I got up! I added too much too soon, but heck, the only way to determine this is to do it and see!

Thanks again, Dis. I’m going to re-read your post a little later. Please don’t worry about the length of anything you may want to say to me. I’m very pleased that you’d take the time.


loves to skate
01-20-2009, 02:37 PM
Hi Paul,

quote (So Sally, IYO, this would in essence be a good thing, right?)

I sure hope it is a good thing because I still have a lot of firing nerves and I am a year and one month post-op. My Doctor tells me it can take up to two years to get better. I take 300 mg gabapentin three times a day for the pain. It isn't disabling pain, just annoying, and without medication, keeps me awake at night.

Now, I have a question for you. I don't get into the texting thing, so what does IYO mean?

Thanks dis for the excellent explanation on firing nerves.


01-20-2009, 04:23 PM
Hi Love,

>>> Now, I have a question for you. I don't get into the texting thing, so what does IYO mean?

I'm sorry! It's "In Your Opinion". I'm not into the text thing much either, and when I say "Im sorry", I mean that normally I type the words myself and I should have known better!

When I gather some time and a few thoughts, I'll be back later tonight.