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How Nerves Recover After Trauma

November 22, 2022

Nerves are essentially an elaborate messenger system, triggering your muscles to move. First, your brain allocates a task, and the nerves communicate with every muscle needed to complete it. Each movement is complicated, requiring dozens if not hundreds of messages sent throughout the body.

An injury, such as an accident, fall, stroke or any movement or impact that crushes or severs your nerves, can result in loss of communication and impair the intended tasks. If you cut off oxygen for more than three minutes, your nerves start dying. At this point, they being to lose function.

You’re more likely to notice the weakness in your muscles as you rebuild strength. You will start gaining strength as you continue to exercise as part of normal recovery.

Signs of Nerve Damage

There are several symptoms that indicate you might have nerve damage, including:

  • Numbness or tingling in the initial stages in the hands and feet
  • Squeezing or compression feeling, as if parts of your body are wearing tight leggings or socks
  • Muscle weakness, especially in your arms or legs
  • Frequently dropping what you are holding

Recovery Process

The nerves, if injured, will regenerate all the time and at any age. They will grow back, just not immediately and not with precisely the same capability that they had previously.

During recovery, exercise is incredibly important not just to help your muscles regain function, but also to increase blood flow throughout your body. This, in turn, speeds nerve healing. Likewise, inactivity slows progress. You don’t want to overdo it, but the more you move your muscles, the better.

How Nerves Regrow

When nerve cells regenerate, they appear as new neurons. Those neurons don't have the same functionality as the old nerves. The new nerves start out as much smaller nerves — baby nerves, in a sense. These new neurons need to be trained to carry signals and carry out tasks. In other words, they must gain experience.

This is another reason that exercise is key. By participating in physical therapy as well as exercise and everyday movements, you force your nerves to cover the gaps and complete the tasks.

Think of it this way: If you have an office, and you lose some employees and replace them with new workers, these workers will fill the space -- but they don’t know how to do the same jobs. Training them takes time. Occasionally, if you have a problem in the office, you might pull people from other offices to cover that job. Some people are doing two jobs. So, too, with nerves. If some nerves have lost functionality, those functions are taken up by other nerves.

Starting after the surgery, nerves begin growing every day, at the rate of 1 mm per day, or 1 inch a month in a healthy 25-year-old. If you are older, they grow back at a slower rate. If nerves have not been cut, they take roughly up six to12 months to heal.

 In addition to physical therapy, regrowth can be helped by:

  • Massage
  • Supplements including magnesium and alpha lipoic acid
  • Taking vitamins B group

Recovery is a slow process, and the biggest thing you can do to regain nerve sensation and function is to move consistently. You may experience tingling feelings and possibly sensations similar to electrical shock, which is a good sign of having new sensitive nerves. Whatever you feel during the journey, be sure to talk to your doctor about it during your follow-up appointments.

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