Numbness and Tingling and Burning- Oh My!

What Nerves and Deep Tendon Reflexes Can Tell You About Your Spinal Health

Numbness, tingling, burning, and pain are abnormal feelings that may be felt in the back and/or extremities. Sometimes these symptoms radiate from one area into another, like with sciatica. These feelings originate through our nerves and pathways.

Nerves originate from the spinal cord and divide into sensory and motor nerves. The sensory nerve gives sensation to the skin in patterns that appear similar to a map on the body. For example, skin on your shoulders and hands correspond to the cervical nerve roots, while skin on your legs correspond to lumbar nerve roots. Abnormal responses to feeling may be indicative of a nerve root problem.


On the other hand, a deep tendon reflex is a response to motor neuron stimulation. You may have experienced the ‘knee jerk’ response when a provider taps your knee with a rubber hammer. This is a normal response, which is involuntary. When reflex responses are absent, or slowed, this can be indicative of damage to the spinal cord, nerve root, peripheral nerve, or muscle. It can also be due to a disruption of the sensory or motor nerve.

A neurological examination, along with a detailed mechanical examination (movement of the arms, legs, and trunk), can greatly assist the provider in making the correct diagnosis. The findings of the examination are then correlated with the history of the patient’s ailment and diagnostic studies to make the correct diagnosis and treatment plan.



Treatments for interrupted nerve pathways and absent or slowed deep tendon reflexes include chiropractic care, physical therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, and sometimes medication. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, come in for a neurological examination with our medical department to find out how we can help!


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