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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : I have nerve pain in my middle upper back. And I was recently diagnosed with borderline diabetes. Could that be causing the nerve pain?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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July 12, 2011
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A:

Yes, it’s possible, but not very likely. If your blood sugars have been high for several years and the sugars were higher than they are now, that could have injured the nerve in your back.

However, I suspect there is some other reason. When diabetes affects the nerves, it usually takes many years of high blood sugars to cause symptoms. And the most common type of nerve damage from diabetes is peripheral neuropathy. This is pain, tingling or numbness that first occurs in the feet.

Since your pain is in your upper back, you should consider other reasons for your pain. Perhaps the pain is not nerve related.

If the pain is clearly nerve pain (doctors call this neuralgia), then the most common cause is an irritation or pinching of the nerve at the place where the nerve comes out of the spine. The medical term for this type of neuralgia is radiculopathy.

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