Updated 31 October 2016

Eric Clapton: Nerve pain like 'electric shocks'

Peripheral neuropathy is the painful condition that has curtailed this top musician’s performances.


Eric Clapton has been battling back pain for at least three years, causing him to cancel some concerts. Now, in an interview with Classic Rock magazine, he has revealed more about this problem, and the nerve pain that has been plaguing him.

“I’ve had quite a lot of pain over the last year,” he told the magazine. “It started with lower back pain, and turned into what they call peripheral neuropathy – which is where you feel like you have electric shocks going down your leg.”

What is peripheral neuropathy?

Read: Peripheral neuropathy

The peripheral nerves carry information to and from the brain and spinal cord. These control sensation (such as feeling warmth or cold), movement and even automatic functions like digestion. When something goes wrong with them it can cause a range of symptoms such as:

  • Pain
  • Numbness, burning or tingling
  • Lack of co-ordination and clumsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Twitching or cramping
  • Incontinence
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Impotence
  • Blurred vision
  • Wasting
  • Paralysis
  • Breathing or swallowing difficulties
  • Nausea and bloating

What causes nerve pain?

While it’s not clear exactly what is causing Eric Clapton’s peripheral neuropathy, there are a variety of possible reasons a person may experience this unpleasant and debilitating symptom. Among these are:

  • Vitamin B deficiency
  • Injury, including from vibrations (often work-related)
  • Exposure to extreme cold
  • Being immobilised for long periods
  • Exposure to some heavy metals such as lead, mercury or arsenic
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Conditions like diphtheria, tick bite fever or HIV/Aids
  • Arthritis or related disorders
  • Kidney failure

Treatment of neuropathy

Depending on the underlying cause, treatment will vary. Some pain management medication will probably be prescribed, as well as lifestyle changes to improve the patient’s quality of life.

Read more:

HIV-associated peripheral neuropathy (PN)

A vegan diet may help with diabetes nerve pain

What Is diabetic neuropathy?


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