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  • Writer's pictureHannah Foster-Middleton

HOW DO PINCHED NERVES OCCUR?

While age or poor posture can contribute to soreness, a pinched nerve might be responsible. When adjacent tissues press down on one or more nerves, the compression of muscles, tendons, bones, or cartilage can result in pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness. 

In certain cases, a pinched nerve signifies another issue within the body, for instance, a herniated disc or carpal tunnel syndrome, based on the location of pain and numbness.

Typically, a combination of rest and physiotherapy can address and reduce the side effects of a pinched nerve in weeks or months. Should the condition go unaddressed, a pinched nerve can result in more severe damage, contribute to chronic pain, and require surgery for relief.

What Causes a Pinched Nerve?

Multiple tissues can put pressure on the nerve or nerve root. Although this condition can occur in several body areas, it’s more common in the neck and back. However, pain doesn’t always happen in the spot where the tissues are compressing the nerve:

·         A lumbar spinal disc may put pressure on a nerve root, resulting in pain shooting down the le, numbness, and tingling

·         A pinched nerve in the cervical spine can create the sensation of a stiff neck or numbness, tingling, and pain in the shoulders and arms

·         A pinched nerve in the lumbar region can be felt in the back, hips, and leg

·         Chest pain may stem from a pinched thoracic nerve

A pinched nerve may also indicate another condition affecting the ligaments, muscles, joints, or bones, including:

·         Inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis

·         Bone spurs on the spinal discs

·         Obesity, causing extra weight to place pressure on select nerves

·         Pregnancy-related body changes

·         Diabetes-related nerve damage 

Additionally, pinched nerves can be a result of:

·         A sports injury, particularly with poor form, repetitive strain, or using worn-out equipment that no longer provides support.

·         A repetitive motion injury from typing or using a vibrating tool on the job.

·         Carpal tunnel syndrome, when an inflamed tendon compresses the median nerve as it passes down the arm.

Not addressing the compressed nerve or source of inflammation may lead to permanent nerve damage and chronic pain. The barrier surrounding the nerve starts to break down, or fluid accumulates in the area, applying more pressure or contributing to scarring.


Risks for a Pinched Nerve

The following factors influence a person’s risk of experiencing a pinched nerve in their lifetime:

·         Sex: Naturally, women have smaller carpal tunnels and a higher likelihood of developing this condition. Pregnancy-related changes can also cause swelling near the nerves.

·         Thyroid Disease: Those with this condition have a stronger risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

·         Weight: Those who carry around extra pounds have a greater chance of developing a compressed nerve.

·         Bed Rest: Those required to be on long-term bed rest are at greater risk for experiencing a compressed nerve.

Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve

Signs you may be experiencing a pinched nerve include:

·         Numbness or lack of sensation in an area of the body

·         Muscle weakness in a concentrated spot

·         A sharp or burning pain that seems to radiate

·         A pins and needles sensation or feeling like an extremity has fallen asleep

·         Increased pain or numbness when you wake up in the morning

Consider seeking medical attention if symptoms do not improve after you’ve rested, taken an over-the-counter pain medicine, and have paused physical activities.

Diagnosing a pinched nerve begins with imaging: X-ray to examine the bones, MRI for soft tissue analysis, or electromyography to assess muscle impulses and the nervous system.

Pinched Nerve Treatment

To reduce the effects of a pinched nerve and prevent recurrence, you’re advised to:

·         Focus on your posture and form

·         Avoid sitting in one position for an extended period

·         Work strength and flexibility training into your exercise routine

·         Take breaks if you’re performing a repetitive task

·         Try to maintain a healthy weight

·         Look for support devices to create a more ergonomic work environment

 

Along with these points, your doctor may steer you toward:

·         Physiotherapy to target the muscles in the affected area and lessen pressure on the nerve using decompression therapy, dry needling, cupping, etc.

·         NSAIDs and other medications to address nerve pain and inflammation.

·         Surgery if physiotherapy and pain relievers do not have the desired effect. This can reduce the pressure on the nerve to lessen the pain you’re currently feeling.

 

Whether a pinched nerve affects your lower back, shoulder, or neck or is related to a condition like arthritis, work with a physiotherapist first to address the source of pain and numbness and strengthen the muscles in this area.

 

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