What is a Pinched Nerve and How Can I Treat It?

By: Dr. Ellen Edgar  -  no responses  -  Conditions, Diagnosis, Neurological Blog, Treatments


Woman with a pinched nerve in NYC

What is a Pinched Nerve?

Nerves are bundles of fibers that transmit messages throughout the body. Sometimes a person may experience a pinched nerve, also known as a nerve compression. A pinched nerve may vary in severity, meaning some individuals experience a slight amount of numbness temporarily while others experience more intense, consistent pain.
A pinched nerve results when excessive pressure or force is applied to a nerve. Sometimes, the compression is a result of doing repetitive motions or keeping a body part in one place for a prolonged period of time. For instance, the person may curl up his or her arm while he or she sleeps, which puts pressure on the same nerve for several hours each night.

Some nerves are more susceptible than others. Nerves located in confined spaces aren’t well protected by tissue. These nerves are more vulnerable to compression due to not being well protected or padded. Areas between ligaments, tendons and bones are common area for a pinched nerve to occur.

The most common sign or symptom is pain, which radiates outward. It tends to feel like a sharp, burning or aching sensation. Numbness, a decreased sensation in the area, and a tingling sensation are also common symptoms. Muscle weakness is possible and so are frequent issues with a particular extremity “falling asleep.” The issues may worsen once you go to sleep.

It’s possible that a person will experience symptoms that aren’t localized, meaning the pain or numbness radiates. For instance, if a person pinches a nerve in his or her arm, the pain or numbness may extend into the person’s hands. Compression of a nerve in the lower portion of the body may cause pain or numbness in the person’s legs while a pinched nerve in the upper portion may cause issues in the person’s shoulder or arm. Sciatica is a condition caused by a pinched sciatic nerve. It causes pain or numbness that extends from the lower back down the person’s legs.

Unfortunately, not every compressed nerve is a simple problem that heals on its own. Sometimes, the problem is more complicated and requires treatment. When it lasts for a prolonged period of time, the protective layer located around the nerve has the potential to break down. Fluid also has the potential to build up and cause scarring, swelling or extra pressure, which leads to an exacerbation of symptoms. The scarring may cause damage that interferes with nerve function.

How is it Treated?

It’s beneficial for a person to seek treatment as soon as possible. Although the issue may only be temporary, the doctor is able to prevent the possibility of a serious problem occurring. The sooner you seek out treatment, the sooner you’ll be able to find relief from the pain and discomfort. Sometimes the issue won’t subside without treatment.
The doctor will recommend the patient rests the area, and may recommend a brace or splint. Physical therapy to strengthen and stretch the muscles to relieve pressure may be recommended. Corticosteroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may also be prescribed. In more severe cases where the nerve doesn’t heal after several weeks, surgery may be needed to relieve the pressure.

At Complete Neurological Care, we pride ourselves on getting our diagnosis right the first time. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms associated with a pinched nerve contact us today.

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