3 Types of Nerve Injury: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Aman Priya Khanna
Written by Sangeeta Sharma, last updated on 9 September 2023| min read
3 Types of Nerve Injury: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Quick Summary

  • Nerve injuries can range in severity and can be caused by various factors.
  • Immediate and adequate medical assistance is essential in the treatment of these injuries.
  • All types of nerve injuries can seriously influence a person's quality of life.

Nerves are necessary for us to move, feel, and function effectively. All types of nerve injuries can seriously influence a person's quality of life. Immediate and adequate medical assistance is essential in the treatment of these injuries.

Nerve injuries range in severity and can be caused by various factors. Want to know more? Continue reading to learn about the different types of nerve injuries and their consequences.

What is Nerve Injury

Nerve injury is defined as nerve damage in the nervous system of the body. The nervous system is a complex system that includes the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves that run throughout the body. 

Nerves act as the communication system of the body. They send electrical messages to and from the brain that regulate movement, sensation, and other processes. The injuries to the nerve can develop for various reasons. 

The severity ranges from mild to temporary to severe and permanent. These injuries can impair an individual's ability to move, recognise sensations, and perform regular physical tasks.

Book Consultation

Causes of Nerve Injury

Nerve injuries can develop due to various factors, including physical trauma and medical diseases. The following are some of the most common causes of nerve injuries:

Traumatic Causes

Nerve injuries can occur due to traumatic incidents, like accidents or falls, where the nerves get damaged due to sudden impact or excessive pressure. These injuries disrupt the normal communication between the brain and the body. It affects various sensations and functions. Below are the traumatic causes of nerve injuries:

  1. Mechanical Injury: Physical trauma, such as fractures, dislocations, and crush injuries that directly impact nerves.

  2. Penetrating Injuries: Sharp items like knives or glass shards can penetrate tissues and harm nerves.

  3. Stretch Injuries: During accidents or injuries, nerves can be stretched beyond their natural range, causing injury.

  4. Compression: Prolonged nerve compression, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, can result in harm.

Latrogenic Causes

Latrogenic nerve injuries stem from medical procedures or treatments where nerves might inadvertently get harmed. These unintended injuries can disrupt nerve function, impacting sensations and bodily functions. Below are the iatrogenic causes of nerve injuries:

  1. Surgical Interventions: Nerve injuries can occur during surgical interventions, particularly those involving nerves or adjacent structures.

  2. Medical Injections: Inadvertent nerve injury can result from injections, including nerve blocks or vaccinations.

  3. Medical Equipment: Catheters or needles can cause nerve injury when inserted or removed.

Disease-Related Factors

Disease-related nerve injuries arise from certain health conditions affected by the nerves, such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, or infections. 

These underlying diseases can harm the nerves, disrupting communication between the brain and the body. It causes various symptoms and impairments. Below are the disease-related causes of nerve injuries:

  1. Inflammatory conditions: Autoimmune illnesses can cause nerve inflammation (e.g., Guillain-Barré syndrome).

  2. Infectious Diseases: Some illnesses, such as leprosy and herpes zoster, can directly impact nerves.

  3. Metabolic Disorders: Diabetes and other metabolic disorders can cause nerve damage over time (diabetic neuropathy).

  4. Tumours: These can compress or invade nerves, resulting in harm.

Toxic Sources

Toxic nerve injuries occur when exposure to harmful substances, like certain chemicals or drugs, damages the nerves in the body. These toxins can interfere with the normal functioning of nerves, causing a range of sensations and functions to be compromised. These include:

  1. Chemical Exposure: Certain chemicals or toxins, such as lead, can cause nerve damage.

  2. Alcohol and Drug Misuse: Neuropathy can be caused by long-term alcohol or drug misuse.

Entrapment and Compression

Anatomical pressure points or tight areas in the body can compress or entrap nerves, resulting in nerve damage (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome).

Classification of Nerve Injuries

Nerve injuries are divided into many groups based on various characteristics, including the size and severity of the lesion. The Sunderland and Seddon classifications are two of the most regularly used categorisation methods for describing nerve damage. 

Seddon's Classification

Seddon's Classification, often known as the Seddon Classification of Nerve Injuries, is a system for categorising peripheral nerve injuries. Sir Herbert Sheddon developed it. This classification divides nerve injuries into three main categories:

  1. Neurapraxia (Type I): This is the mildest form of nerve injury. Neurapraxia is a momentary lack of nerve function caused by nerve compression or stretching. The nerve is unharmed, and no structural damage has occurred. Recovery is typically quick and complete.
  2. Axonotmesis (Type II): Axonotmesis involves nerve fibre (axon) injury but with varying degrees of damage to the surrounding connective tissue. Seddon categorised this category further into:
  3. Axonotmesis with Myelin Damage: In this subtype, the myelin sheath around the nerve fibres is damaged, which can delay nerve transmission. Nerve regeneration is possible, but recovery may be slow.
  4. Axonotmesis without Myelin Damage: In this subtype, the myelin sheath is not damaged, but the nerve fibres are harmed. Recovery is still possible but may be slower than axonotmesis with myelin injury.
  5. Neurotmesis (Type III): Neurotmesis is the most severe type of nerve injury. It involves full nerve fibre destruction and injury to the surrounding connective tissue.

Sunderland's Classification

The Sunderland Classification is a system for categorising nerve injuries based on severity. Dr Thomas J. Sunderland, a British neurosurgeon, developed it. This classification divides nerve injuries into five main categories:

  1. First Degree: Nerves are stretched but not torn. Recovery is usually complete and spontaneous.

  2. Second Degree: Some nerve fibres are damaged, causing a loss of function. However, recovery is still likely with time.

  3. Third Degree: Here, the nerve fibres are partially torn. Recovery might occur, but it could be incomplete and take longer.

  4. Fourth Degree: Nerve fibres are completely severed, requiring surgical repair for potential recovery.

  5. Fifth Degree: The nerve is completely severed and cannot be repaired, necessitating alternative treatments or accommodations.

Diagnosis of Nerve Injuries

Accurate diagnosis is crucial for determining the nerve injury's location, type, and severity, guiding treatment decisions. Here are the key steps and methods involved in diagnosing nerve injuries:

Clinical Evaluation

  1. Patient History: Taking a full medical history, including information regarding the development of symptoms and any medical problems, is the first step in diagnosis.

  2. Physical Examination: It checks muscle strength, sensitivity, reflexes, and any apparent symptoms of nerve injury. This includes muscle atrophy or weakening.


  1. Nerve Conduction Studies (NCS): NCS is a technique that examines the speed and strength of electrical signals as they pass along nerves. It can aid in identifying nerve damage, the magnitude of the injury, and the location of the injury.

  2. Electromyography (EMG): EMG measures muscular electrical activity and can help detect whether muscle weakness is caused by nerve injury.

  3. Ultrasound Imaging: This can assist in discovering structural abnormalities or nerve compression by seeing nerves and surrounding tissues.

  4. MRI Scans: They can provide detailed images of soft tissues such as nerves. They are very helpful in diagnosing nerve compression, tumours, and lesions.

  5. Computed Tomography (CT) Myelography: CT myelography injects contrast dye into the spinal fluid to see the spinal cord and nerve roots. 

Laboratory Examinations

Blood tests may be performed to rule out any underlying medical diseases that may be causing or contributing to nerve damage. This includes diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, or autoimmune disorders.

Specialised Examinations

  1. QST (Quantitative Sensory Testing): QST assesses a patient's capacity to detect numerous sensory cues such as touch, temperature, and vibration. It can aid in the detection of sensory nerve problems.

  2. Skin Biopsy: A skin biopsy may be conducted to examine nerve fibre density in the skin in situations of tiny fibre neuropathy or some rare nerve illnesses.


  1. Somatosensory Evoked Potentials (SSEPs) and Visual Evoked Potentials (VEPs): These tests assess the nervous system's electrical reactions to certain sensory stimuli. They can aid in the diagnosis of disorders affecting the nerve system's sensory pathways.

Treatment of Nerve Injuries

The treatment of nerve injuries depends on the type, severity, and location of the injury, as well as the underlying cause. Here are some common approaches to the treatment of nerve injuries:

  1. Observation and Rest: Mild nerve injuries might heal on their own with rest and time.

  2. Physical Therapy: Special exercises can help maintain muscle strength and flexibility during nerve recovery.

  3. Medications: Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs can manage discomfort during healing.

  4. Nerve Decompression: Relieving the pressure can aid recovery if nerves are compressed.

  5. Electrical Stimulation: Techniques like TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) can alleviate pain and aid healing.

  6. Bracing or Splinting: Supportive devices can protect and immobilize the affected area.

  7. Surgery: Severely damaged nerves might need surgical repair or grafting.

Prevention of Nerve Injuries

Preventing nerve injuries involves taking precautions and changing one's lifestyle to limit the chance of trauma, compression, and other variables that might cause nerve injury. Here are precautions to take to lessen the risk of nerve injury:

  1. Implement safety practices in the workplace and leisure settings to limit the chance of accidents, falls, and collisions.

  2. When participating in high-risk activities, wear adequate protection gear such as helmets, padding, and safety harnesses.

  3. Promote responsible conduct, such as safe driving and avoiding risky activities that can result in traumatic injuries.

  4. Exercise regularly to improve general health and lower the risk of nerve-related disorders.

  5. Smoking can decrease circulation and contribute to nerve injury; quitting is advisable.


Understanding the types of nerve injuries and their potential treatments is essential for medical specialists and those affected by them. Remember that preventing nerve injuries is generally more beneficial and less challenging than treating them after they occur.

Please contact HexaHealth to learn more about this issue or have any other medical concerns. HexaHealth is one of the best patient care and service platforms in India. So, why wait? Schedule your consultation today!

Suggested Reads

  1. Vagus Nerve Stimulation

  2. Optic Nerve Disorder

Frequently Asked Questions

A nerve injury is a damage to a nerve. It can result from various causes such as trauma, compression, disease, or toxins.


The 3 types of nerve injury:

  1. Neurapraxia

  2. Axonotmesis

  3. Neurotmesis


The common causes of nerve injuries are:

  1. Trauma (accidents, falls, surgical procedures)

  2. Repetitive motions

  3. Infections (e.g., shingles, Lyme disease)

  4. Medical conditions (e.g., diabetes, autoimmune disorders)

  5. Toxins and medications

  6. Heavy metal exposure


The signs and symptoms of nerve injuries are:

  1. Pain

  2. Numbness

  3. Tingling or pins and needles sensation

  4. Weakness

  5. Loss of coordination

  6. Muscle atrophy

  7. Sensitivity to temperature and touch

  8. Burning sensation


Factors that decide nerve injury classification are:

  1. Type of nerve affected

  2. Extent and severity of nerve damage

  3. Location of the injury

  4. Underlying causes of injury


The types of peripheral nerve injury are:

  1. Compression neuropathy

  2. Crush injury

  3. Traction injury

  4. Penetrating injury

  5. Stretch injury

  6. Ischemic injury

  7. Radiation-induced injury


Yes, here are some rare types of nerve injuries:

  1. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

  2. Mononeuritis Multiplex

  3. Polyneuritis Cranialis

  4. Neuralgic Amyotrophy

  5. Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor

  6. Brachial Neuritis

  7. Isolated Nerve Entrapments

  8. Parsonage-Turner Syndrome


Nerve injuries can affect the body's functions by causing:

  1. Pain

  2. Numbness

  3. Tingling

  4. Muscle weakness

  5. Loss of coordination

  6. Muscle atrophy

  7. Sensory disturbances


Yes, risk factors that increase the likelihood of nerve injuries are:

  1. Trauma or accidents

  2. Repetitive motions or overuse

  3. Surgical procedures

  4. Medical conditions (e.g., diabetes, autoimmune disorders)

  5. Infections 

  6. Exposure to toxins or medications

  7. Genetic factors

  8. Tumours or growths

  9. Age-related changes


The nerve injuries are diagnosed and evaluated through:

  1. Medical history and physical examination

  2. Electromyography (EMG)

  3. Nerve conduction studies (NCS)

  4. Imaging tests (MRI, CT scan)

  5. Nerve biopsy

  6. Blood tests

  7. X-rays

  8. Ultrasound


Treatment options available for different types of nerve injuries are:

  1. Neurapraxia:

  1. Rest and time

  2. Monitoring

  1. Axonotmesis:

  1. Physical therapy

  2. Medications for pain and inflammation

  3. Surgical repair (in severe cases)

  1. Neurotmesis:

  1. Surgical repair


Yes, nerve injury can have long-term consequences. Several factors, including the type and severity of the nerve injury, determine the pattern and intensity of these problems.


Yes, preventive actions can considerably lower the chance of nerve injury. Individuals can reduce their exposure to nerve injuries by keeping proper posture and using protective gear during high-risk activities.


The recovery process differs based on the type of nerve injury:

  1. Neurapraxia: Typically fast and complete recovery.

  2. Axonotmesis: Slower recovery; regeneration of damaged axons.

  3. Neurotmesis: Challenging and often incomplete recovery; surgical repair may be needed.


Physical therapy is essential in the rehabilitation of nerve injuries. It helps to recover mobility, strength, and function while preventing problems such as muscle atrophy and joint contractures. 


Yes, surgical procedures are frequently required in cases of serious nerve injury. Repairing nerve transections, eliminating compression causes, and grafting nerves are all possible surgical procedures.


Yes, nerve injury can cause long-term pain or discomfort. Damage to the nerves can interfere with the regular flow of messages between the nerves and the brain. This might result in prolonged discomfort, tingling, and numbness sensations.


The prognosis for nerve injury with appropriate treatment varies. It can range from great for light injuries (neurapraxia) to more extremely careful for serious injuries (neurotmesis).


Yes, there have been major advances in medical technology for treating nerve injuries. Some examples are improvements in surgical procedures, the development of nerve regeneration therapies, and the use of advanced imaging.


Some ways in which nerve injuries can affect the quality of life include:

  1. Chronic pain

  2. Sensory changes

  3. Motor function

  4. Loss of function

  5. Reduced quality of sleep


Yes, there are lifestyle modifications that can support nerve health, including:

  1. Regular exercise

  2. Balanced diet with B vitamins

  3. Adequate hydration

  4. Proper posture and ergonomics

  5. Avoiding excessive alcohol and toxin exposure

  6. Managing chronic medical conditions

  7. Mindful use of protective gear in sports and activities


Steps that should be taken if someone suspects they have a nerve injury are:

  1. Seek immediate medical attention.

  2. Avoid putting pressure or strain on the affected area.

  3. Follow the healthcare provider's advice and recommendations.

  4. Communicate symptoms, medical history, and any potential causes of the injury.

  5. Adhere to prescribed treatments, therapies, or medications.


Here are some specialists who may be involved in the diagnosis and treatment of nerve injuries:

  1. Neurologists

  2. Neurosurgeons

  3. Orthopedic Surgeons

  4. Physical Therapists

  5. Hand Surgeons

  6. Peripheral Nerve Surgeons



All the articles on HexaHealth are supported by verified medically-recognized sources such as; peer-reviewed academic research papers, research institutions, and medical journals. Our medical reviewers also check references of the articles to prioritize accuracy and relevance. Refer to our detailed editorial policy for more information.

  1. Thomas Ward Throckmorton, MD. Nerve Injuries - OrthoInfo - AAOS [Internet]. www.orthoinfo.org. 2023. link
  2. merican Society for Surgery. Nerve Injury: Causes and Treatment | The Hand Society [Internet]. www.assh.org. link
  3. Nerve Injuries of the Hand, Wrist and Elbow | Michigan Medicine [Internet]. www.uofmhealth.org. link
  4. Classification of Nerve Injuries [Internet]. www.stlouischildrens.org. link
  5. Lonnie R. Mercier M.D. Nerve Injury - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics [Internet]. www.sciencedirect.com. 2008. link
  6. Steps to Prevent or Delay Nerve Damage | ADA [Internet]. diabetes.org. link

Updated on : 9 September 2023

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational and learning purposes only. It doesn't cover every medical condition and might not be relevant to your personal situation. This information isn't medical advice, isn't meant for diagnosing any condition, and shouldn't replace talking to a certified medical or healthcare professional.


Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

MBBS, DNB General Surgery, Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery, FIAGES

12 Years Experience

Dr Aman Priya Khanna is a well-known General Surgeon, Proctologist and Bariatric Surgeon currently associated with HealthFort Clinic, Health First Multispecialty Clinic in Delhi. He has 12 years of experience in General Surgery and worke...View More


Sangeeta Sharma

Sangeeta Sharma

BSc. Biochemistry I MSc. Biochemistry (Oxford College Bangalore)

6 Years Experience

She has extensive experience in content and regulatory writing with reputed organisations like Sun Pharmaceuticals and Innodata. Skilled in SEO and passionate about creating informative and engaging medical conten...View More

Expert Doctors

Dr. Lavindra Tomar

Orthopaedics and Joint Replacement

33+ Years




Dr. Manmohan Agarwal

Orthopaedics and Joint Replacement, Arthroscopy and Spo...

38+ Years




NABH Accredited Hospitals

BH Salvas Hospital

BH Salvas Hospital

4.89/5( Ratings)
Chandan Palace
CDAS Super Speciality Hospital

CDAS Super Speciality Hospital

4.55/5( Ratings)
Malibu Town

Book Consultation

Latest Health Articles