Why Does My Back Itch?

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: January 27, 2016

back itches

Similar to back pain, an itchy sensation in your back can occur for a variety of reasons. Oftentimes these sensations are caused by dry skin or that ugly wool sweater your grandmother gave you at Christmas last year, but an itch that doesn’t resolve or that comes back regularly could be the sign or a larger issue. Today, we take a look at some of the spine-related reasons you may have a frequent itch on your back.

Scratch That Itch

In the medical world, an itch in the spine is referred to as notalgia paresthetica. This condition is caused by the impingement of a spinal nerve. See, as your nerves exit the spine, a small collection travels through muscle tissue towards the skin. On its journey to the skin, the nerve can become compressed or pinched by a variety of issues. Sometimes the muscle causes the impingement, while other times it can be caused by bone spurs that develop as we age.

The problem, though, is that since it’s a nerve issue and not a skin issue, scratching the itchy spot isn’t going to solve the problem. It may provide some modest short-term relief, but the skin is downstream from the actual problemed area. Making matters worse, this area of the skin can become hypersensitive because of the nerve impingement, meaning dry skin or rough fabric can set off an itchy spell.

Itchy Back Treatments

As is the case with all medical conditions, the goal of treatment is to focus on the problemed area – the nerve – and not the affected area like the skin. Things like moisturizing creams and soft fabrics can help prevent flare-ups, but they won’t work to correct the nerve issue. Additionally, cold therapy can be used to calm an itchy sensation because temperature and itches travel on the same pathway, but it won’t correct the underlying cause.

If you want to get to the heart of the problem, you have to focus on the nerve. Some treatment options that can free the impinged nerve include:

In rare cases, a minimally invasive surgery may be an option if the nerve is greatly damaged and it is affecting other body structures. Again, nerve debridement is rare, but the procedure has high satisfaction and success outcomes.

So if you’ve been dealing with an itchy spot on your back for weeks or months, consider setting up a consultation with a licensed spine specialist. They can determine if a nerve issue is the source of your itch, or if it’s simply a result of dry skin.

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