About half of the people who have a history of chronic alcoholism suffer from nerve damage. It is not uncommon for people who take alcohol to feel some pains in their limbs.
That’s because alcohol is known to cause a substantial amount of damage to the nerves, particularly when taken excessively.
However dreadful that sounds, it can still be managed.
In this article, we will discuss all you need to know about why your arms hurt after drinking alcohol and how it can be treated.
Alcoholic Neuropathy, What Does It Entail?
The feeling of your arms or limbs hurting after you take in alcohol is known as alcoholic neuropathy.
It is a medical condition characterized by nerve damage because of the excessive consumption of alcohol.
It is a disease condition that causes loss of sensation in the limbs, restricted mobility, and loss of some other bodily functions.
According to statistics, about 25% to 60% of chronic alcoholics develop nerve damage with time, gradually experiencing symptoms like pains, tingling, weakness, and numbness in the limbs and other parts of their bodies.
When alcohol accumulates in the body, it causes damage to the peripheral nerves.
These nerves are significantly connected to our spinal cord, limbs, muscles, sensory organs, and brain.
It is through this connection that the brain can receive impulses and sensory information.
When damage to the peripheral nerves occurs, these nerves lose their sensory functions, resulting in symptoms such as loss of sensation, numbness, and pains.
Alcoholic neuropathy can occur in different ways, ranging from mild to severe conditions.
In mild cases, individuals may experience one or two symptoms, while in extreme conditions, individuals experience a series of other related symptoms of the disease condition.
We will talk about some of these towards the later end of this article.
What Does It Mean When My Arms Hurt After Drinking Alcohol?
If your arms hurt regularly, we can say that the alcohol is causing some damage to your nerves.
As we have already established earlier in this article, alcohol harbors enough toxicity to inflict enough damage to the body system, including the peripheral nerves.
What it means when your arms hurt after drinking alcohol is that you might suffer from alcoholic neuropathy, particularly if you have been consuming alcohol for an extended period.
Pains and uncomfortable questions in the limbs are one of the most prominent symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy.
After a while, it might cause hypersensitivity to touch and other painful sensations.
Light touches on your arms might invoke more pressure than they usually do, causing throbbing, burning, or a sensation called pins and needles.
As time goes by, the feeling might intensify, causing more pain than at the early stage.
There are loads of other conditions whose symptoms might mimic that of alcoholic neuropathy, giving similar indications like pains in the limbs, throbbing and burning sensations in the arms and feet.
Some of these conditions are diabetic neuropathy, peripheral vascular disease, multiple sclerosis, Motor neuron disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Spine disease e.t.c.
This information means that the pains in your arms after drinking alcohol, although they might mirror the symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy, might be from another disease condition.
The most accurate way to confirm what is causing the painful sensation in your limbs is by going to a hospital for a diagnosis.
A diagnosis of alcoholic neuropathy is made through examinations, collection of medical history, blood tests, and possibly some nerve tests.
This would confirm whether or not the pains you are experiencing in your limbs result from alcoholic neuropathy or not.
Why Do My Arms Hurt After Drinking Alcohol?
Excessive long-term abuse of alcohol can lead to nerve damage and malnutrition, both of which are contributing factors to the development of alcoholic neuropathy.
Alcohol can damage the body system, impeding the processing, transportation, and absorption of nutrients in the body.
These damages involve micronutrient deficiencies of vitamin E, Thiamin, Niacin, Folate, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12.
Deficiencies of these nutrients can cause harm to the overall health, causing a series of damages, including damage to the nerves in the body.
Thiamin provides the nerves with the energy to function; vitamin B6 is known to help relieve nerve pain, B12 regenerates the nerves, protecting them from damage.
A deficiency in any of these vitamins can potentially cause some damage to your nerves.
Aside from nutritional deficiency, alcohol abuse also causes a build-up of toxins in the body.
These toxins alter the functioning of the kidney, liver, and stomach, preventing the body from detoxifying wastes in the body.
This build-up of toxins ultimately causes a lot of harm to the body system, including the nerves.
When the nerves get destroyed, it affects the axons, an essential part of the nerves that send an electric signal from one nerve to the other.
Unlike some other cells in the body, the nerves are not built to regenerate sporadically after damage.
Severe damage to nerves because of alcoholic neuropathy can invoke permanent damage to the nerves or be challenging to heal.
What Are The Symptoms Of Alcoholic Neuropathy?
The signs and symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy usually vary, depending on the severity of the condition.
Mild cases of alcoholic neuropathy might begin with subtle symptoms, like partial numbness or pain in the limbs.
As it progresses, it develops into more unpleasant symptoms, sometimes showcasing two or more signs at a time.
Some of the most prevailing symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy include:
- Impaired sensation in the limbs, including the arms and feet.
- Tingling, burning, and another unusual phenomenon in the arms and feet.
- Weakness in the limbs
- Loss of balance during movement.
- Constipation and diarrhea
- Trouble staying focused, especially when walking.
- Urinary inconsistency
- Sexual dysfunction. e.t.c
Typically, the effects and symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy are divided into four categories, namely, muscle weakness, decreased sensation, hypersensitivity, and autonomic consequences.
All the symptoms listed above fall into one or more of these categories, and they progress gradually according to the severity of the condition.
How To Treat Alcoholic Neuropathy
The essential step to treating alcoholic neuropathy is to abstain entirely from taking alcohol.
Although if the damage has already been incurred on your body system, it might be difficult to salvage the situation.
However, stopping alcohol abuse would help prevent any further complications from the ones already inflicted on your body system.
If you are having a hard time controlling it, consider rehab. Social support or outpatient therapy might also be possible ways to get rid of your alcohol addiction.
While putting a stop to your alcohol intake might not have an immediate effect, like strengthening coordination or balancing damages caused by alcoholic neuropathy, individuals who stopped taking excessive alcohol reported cases of improvement in symptoms a few months after abstinence.
You need to understand that every treatment option available would begin with preventing your alcohol abuse.
After this, other management plans or cures for your alcoholic neuropathy can form. These plans include;
To replenish the micronutrients that your body is deficient in, you might need to use some vitamin supplements.
We already discussed the importance of vitamins like vitamin B6, B12, Thiamin, niacin, and others on your overall health, including your nerves.
I would like to believe that you understand thoroughly enough why you need these vitamins for your nerves to function correctly.
Use Of Medications
Pain relievers like anticonvulsants and tricyclic antidepressants are effective medications for relieving your pains.
Visit your doctor for medication prescriptions that would work for you.
Do not practice self medications, and do not purchase OTC medications without your doctor’s prescription.
Medical Diagnosis And Treatment
If medications and preventive measures do not work, then your physician would have to run some tests to understand how severe the condition is and what exactly is the cause for the constant pain in your arms.
During the process of your diagnosis, you would be required to share any history of your alcohol use with your physician for accurate discoveries.
The diagnosis would involve some physical examinations, nerve biopsy showing the pattern of damage of the nerves in your affected area, Electromyography, nerve conduction studies, and a few other tests.
These assessments are necessary to confirm the severity of your nerve damage and proper possible solutions.
It is no news that alcohol does more damage to health than good, and no matter the amount of high it gives you, it will never be worth it in the end.
Moderation is vital for alcohol consumption, and the only way t be free from the dangers of alcoholic neuropathy is complete abstinence.
I hope this article will be helpful to you in developing better alcohol habits and getting the constant pains in your arms treated.
MedicalNewsToday: Understanding and treating alcoholic neuropathy
Verywellmind: Alcoholic Neuropathy