Pinched Nerve

1 What is Pinched Nerve?

When a lot of pressure is applied to a nerve that is surrounding tissues such as cartilage, tendons, bones and muscles it is called pinched nerve. This will interrupt the function of the nerves leading to pain, weakness, numbness or tingling.

This can occur in your body in several sites such as in your wrist leading to numbness and pain in your fingers and hands (carpal tunnel syndrome) or a herniated disk in your lower back that can put pressure on a nerve cot leading to pain that flows down the back of your leg.

You can recover from a pinched nerve in a few days or weeks with conservative treatments and rest, but if does not help you might need surgery.

2 Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of a pinched nerve include:

  • sharp, burning or aching pan that can radiate outward;
  • decreased or numbness sensation in the area that is supplied by the nerve;
  • weakness of the muscles in the affected area;
  • pins and needles sensation (paresthesia);
  • tingling sensation;
  • feeling that a hand or foot has “fallen asleep”.

These symptoms might be worse when you are at sleep. If you pinched nerve does not respond to treatments and it is been going for several days, consult your doctor.

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3 Causes

A pinched nerve is caused when too much pressure (compression) is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues. 

Sometimes this tissue can be a cartilage or bone like a herniated spinal disk that puts too much pressure on a nerve foot or sometimes tendons and muscles may cause pinched nerve.

A variety of tissues might be responsible for putting pressure on the carpal tunnel’s median nerve if you have a carpal tunnel syndrome. this includes:

  • degenerated or thickened ligament,
  • swollen tendons sheaths in the tunnel or enlarged bone that can narrow the tunnel.

Some of the conditions that can cause tissue to compress are:

The nerve will be inflamed and this will disturb the function of the nerve.

If this happens for a short period of time there is no permanent damage but if the pressure is chronic and the pain continues there can be permanent nerve damage.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Making a diagnosis of pinched nerve is done by performing several tests.

Consult your doctor for your pinched nerve. Before the appointment ask your doctor if you need to do anything before the visit.

Ask a family member or a close friend to accompany you in the hospital. Bring a notebook and there you can write down the symptoms that you are experiencing. Write down all the supplements, medications and vitamins that you are taking.

Some of the questions that you can ask your doctor include:

  • What is causing my symptoms?
  • What are the other possible causes of this?
  • Is my condition temporary or chronic?
  • What tests do I need?
  • What treatments do you recommend?
  • I have another health condition, how can I manage them both?
  • Do I have to follow any restrictions?
  • Should I see a specialist?
  • What websites do you recommend?

Your doctor will also ask you questions such as:

  • What are the symptoms?
  • Do you feel numbness or pain?
  • Where do you feel these symptoms?
  • How long are you experiencing these symptoms?
  • Are they occasional or continuous?
  • Is there a position or activity that triggers your symptoms?
  • Is there a position or activity that relieves your symptoms?
  • Is your work requiring you to do repetitive motions?

Your doctor will conduct a physical exam and check the affected area. Some tests that your doctor might recommend include:

  • Nerve conduction study – this is done by putting electrodes on your skin to measure if your nerves and muscles are functioning and the electrical nerve impulses, the result will see if there is a damaged nerve;
  • Electromyography – this is done by inserting a needle electrode through your skin into various muscles to check the electrical activity of your muscles when they are at rest or in contact, the result will see if there is damage to the nerve that can lead to the muscle;
  • Magnetic resonance imaging – this will produced detailed views of your body because of the radio waves and magnetic field, the result will see if you have nerve root compression.

5 Treatment

Resting the affected area is the first recommended treatment for a pinched nerve.

Your doctor will likely ask you to stop any activities that can aggravate the compression. You might also need a brace or splint to immobilize the area depending on the location of the pinched nerve.

Your doctor might suggest that you wear a splint if you have a carpal tunnel syndrome all day even at night because your wrist extend and flex during sleep.

To relieve the pressure on the nerve, your physical therapist will teach you exercises that will stretch and strengthen your muscles in the affected area and make you do modification activities that can aggravate the nerve.

Some medications that your doctor might recommend are:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or naproxen (Aleve) to reduce the pain and inflammation;
  • Corticosteroids by injection or mouth to minimize inflammation and pain.

Your doctor may suggest surgery if it does not improve after a few months and it varies depending on the location of the pinched nerve. In surgery, your doctor may remove bone spurs for example.

6 Prevention

Some of these measures can help prevent pinched nerve such as:

  • do flexibility and strength exercises;
  • maintain good posture;
  • maintain a healthy weight;
  • limit your activities which make repetitive actions or take frequent breaks.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Some of the alternative remedies like herbs can help in a pinched nerve. These include:

  • Arnica,
  • Cayenne,
  • Lavender essential oil,
  • St. John’s wort,
  • Wintergreen essential oil,
  • Ginger,
  • Butcher’s Broom,
  • Turmeric,
  • and Skullcap.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Some of the lifestyle change that you can do to overcome your pinched nerves include:

  • practicing good posture such as keeping the spine in proper alignment;
  • exercising and following nutritious diet including weight management to strengthen the muscle in the spine;
  • avoid tobacco use because it can lead to break down of proteins in discs leading to faster degeneration.

9 Risks and Complications

You may be at risk of pinched nerve:

  • if you have a bad posture because it can add pressure on your nerves and spine;
  • sex, mostly in women to develop carpal tunnel syndrome might be because of the smaller carpal tunnels;
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, the inflammation can compress the nerves mostly in your joints;
  • Thyroid disease, you are at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome;
  • bone spurs, condition that can cause bone thickening like osteoarthritis;
  • diabetes, high risk of nerve compression;
  • obesity that can add pressure to nerves;
  • overuse meaning doing repetitive activities;
  • heredity; pregnancy, weight gain and water gain can lead to nerve compression and can swell the nerve pathways.
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