ALS and nerve injury symptoms may feel similar. However, ALS is a progressive condition, and the symptoms people may experience typically worsen over time. In some cases, nerve injuries may trigger the onset of ALS.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a rare neurodegenerative disease that affects the motor neurons that allow people to move voluntary muscles. ALS is a progressive condition, and currently, there is no cure to revert the neurological damage it causes.

Researchers theorize that there may be a link between sustaining a nerve injury and developing ALS later in life. However, they need to conduct more research to confirm the link between these two conditions.

This article reviews the possible link between ALS and nerve injuries, symptoms, early signs of ALS, and how ALS can affect the nerves.

nervesShare on Pinterest
koto feja/Getty Images

Researchers theorize that nerve injuries may increase the risk of developing ALS. This is because nerve injuries may lead to a systemic inflammatory response that could trigger ALS.

A 2019 study on animals found a connection between nerve injury and the onset of ALS. This occurred after the inflammatory state the nerve injury caused spread to the uninjured motor neurons.

However, experts need to conduct more research to determine the link between nerve injury and the onset of ALS.

What is ALS?

ALS is a neurodegenerative disease. It progressively affects the motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Motor neurons allow a person to move their muscles. The degeneration and eventual death of motor neurons that ALS causes can lead to can cause a gradual loss of the ability to operate muscles.

About 90% of ALS cases do not link to genetics. However, 5–10% of cases occur with a known family history of this condition. Doctors refer to this as familial ALS, and there is a 50% risk that descendants may inherit the genes linked to ALS.

Learn more about ALS.

ALS symptoms may feel similar to nerve injuries. This is because both conditions can cause muscle twitching and cramps, muscle weakness, and reduction of muscle mass.

However, ALS is a progressive condition, and its symptoms generally become worse over time, spreading to other areas of the body. People with ALS may experience symptoms such as difficulties speaking and swallowing, and they may also have issues breathing.

Nerve injuries may trigger ALS. A nerve injury could cause a systemic inflammation that may spread to motor neurons and trigger the neurodegenerative condition.

A 2020 animal study found that nerve injury may cause ALS. However, experts need to conduct more research to determine the process that may lead to the onset of ALS in humans.

Some ALS symptoms may be similar to nerve pain. These may include:

However, nerve pain may also cause a stabbing pain or a burning sensation in the areas where the nerves have sustained damage.

ALS is a rare type of motor neuron disease. This condition causes the degeneration of motor neurons, which eventually leads to motor neuron death. Motor neurons are responsible for maintaining the communication between muscles and the brain.

The brain eventually loses its ability to send instructions to the muscles. The lack of communication leads to muscle weakening and, in the later stages, muscle wasting.

The progress of ALS differs for every person. While some people with this condition may experience rapid disease progression, others survive for many years. The 5-year survival rate of people with ALS is about 20%, with about 10% of people surviving for 10 years and about 5% for more than 20 years.

Learn about the stages of ALS.

The early symptoms of ALS may vary. They may include:

  • muscle cramps
  • muscle stiffness and tightness
  • muscle twitching in the tongue, arms, shoulders, or legs
  • difficulty swallowing and chewing
  • nasal and slurred speech
  • muscle weakness, in particular in the neck, diaphragm, arms, or legs

If a person experiences any symptoms of ALS, it is important to contact a doctor. They can perform tests to diagnose the underlying condition that may cause the symptoms and recommend the most appropriate treatment.

Learn about testing for ALS.

ALS is a progressive degenerative condition that affects the motor neurons. Sustaining a nerve injury may increase the risk of developing this condition. However, we need more research to determine the link between nerve injuries and the onset of ALS.

ALS can cause muscle weakening and wastage. This happens because ALS progressively causes the degeneration and death of motor neurons that manage the movement of the voluntary muscles.

In the early stages of ALS, people may experience muscle twitching and cramps. People may develop more serious symptoms in the later stages of the disease, including difficulty swallowing, reduced ability to move muscles, and the need to constantly use a ventilator in order to breathe.