Could my borderline diabetes cause nerve pain in my upper back?

Howard E. Lewine, MD
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.
Harvard Medical School Diabetes: A plan for living

More About this Book

Harvard Medical School Diabetes: A plan for living

Nearly 24 million Americans roughly one of every 13 people have diabetes, a disease marked by high levels of sugar in the blood. More than 90% of them have type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the body...

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.