Notalgia Paresthetica (NP) is characterized by itching, burning, pain, tenderness, or increased sensitivity on the skin of the back. There may also be decreased touch and temperature sensation. The most common location for NP is the upper back between the shoulder blades. Symptoms may be confined to one or both sides of the upper back or solely in the middle.
Though it is not known with certainty what causes NP, some studies suggest that pressure on a nerve due to age or injury may cause the symptoms. Others believe there may be a hereditary connection. Dry skin is a common cause of itching, so twice daily moisturizes should be used.
Notalgia paresthetica affects people of any age, race, or sex. However, it is more common in middle-aged to older adults. Women tend to develop NP more frequently than men.
If moisturizers are not helpful, an over-the-counter cream containing capsaicin (an extract of hot peppers) may be effective. Capsaicin cream does not provide immediate relief, may take up to six weeks for maximum effect and symptoms may return when it is discontinued. Strong cortisone creams (prescription-strength) and/or topical anesthetics are often quite effective.