A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure is put on a nerve by surrounding tissues, such as bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons. If this pressure lasts for a longer period of time, the protective barrier around the nerve may break down and cause swelling and scarring. The scarring can disrupt the nerve's function and can cause symptoms at the site of the damage or any location further down the path from the affected nerve. For example, a herniated disk in the spine may put pressure on a nerve root, causing pain that shoots down the back of the leg.
Most individuals recover from a pinched nerve within a few days or weeks after rest and conservative treatments. If the case is more severe, surgery may be necessary in order to relieve pain from a pinched nerve.
Pinched nerve signs and symptoms include the following:
· Numbness or muscle weakness in the affected area
· Throbbing or burning pain, which may radiate outward
· Tingling sensations
· Frequent feeling that a foot or hand has "fallen asleep"
The symptoms related to a pinched nerve may feel worse when an individual is sleeping.
A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure (compression) is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues. This pressure may be a result of repetitive movements or due to holding the body in one position for a prolonged period of time. In the case of carpal tunnel syndrome, nerves are most vulnerable in areas where there is little soft tissue to protect them such as those of a ligament (which may be thickened), tendon (which may be swollen) or bone (which may be enlarged and narrows the tunnel).
There are a number of factors that can cause tissue to put pressure on a nerve or nerves such as sustaining an injury, having rheumatoid arthritis or putting stress on the body from repetitive movements. This pressure causes inflammation of the nerve and disrupts the nerve's function. If not treated properly, the pressure can continue and persistent pain and permanent nerve damage may occur.
A number of factors that can increase the risk of experiencing a pinched nerve include:
· Poor posture
· Being female
· Being overweight
· Being pregnant
· Bone spurs (conditions that cause bone thickening such as osteoarthritis)
· Rheumatoid arthritis (inflammation of the joints)
· Thyroid disease
· Repetitive movements of the hand, wrist or shoulder
· Family history of pinched nerves
The most frequently recommended treatment for pinched nerve is rest for the affected area. Depending on the location of the pinched nerve, other methods of treatment can include the following:
- Immobilization of the affected area: An individual may need to wear splint or brace to immobilize the area.
- Physical therapy: A program designed to teach strengthening exercises in order to stretch the muscles in the affected area and relieve pressure on the nerve.
- Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen (Aleve), can help relieve pain and reduce swelling around the nerve.
- Surgery: The type of surgery an individual may undergo typically depends on the location of the pinched nerve. Surgery may entail removing bone spurs or a part of a herniated disk in the spine.
A few recommendations for preventing a pinched nerve include:
· Maintaining a healthy weight
· Maintaining a good posture
· Exercising regularly to increase strength and flexibility
· Limiting repetitive activities and taking frequent breaks in between activities