Pinched Nerves: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment
Pinched nerves, also known as compressed nerves, are a condition in which there is pressure or compression on a nerve, which can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the affected area. This pressure can be caused by a variety of factors, such as a herniated disc, bone spurs, or tight muscles.
Pinched nerves can occur in various parts of the body, including the neck, back, wrists, elbows, and hips. The symptoms of a pinched nerve can vary depending on the location of the compressed nerve.
Sings and symptoms:
- Pain: Pinched nerves often cause pain in the affected area. The pain may be sharp or dull, and it may come and go or be constant.
- Numbness or tingling: Pinched nerves can cause numbness or tingling sensations in the affected area. You may experience a “pins and needles” sensation or a feeling of “electricity” in the area.
- Muscle weakness: If the pinched nerve is affecting the muscles, you may experience weakness or difficulty moving the affected limb or muscle.
- Sensitivity to touch: Some people with a pinched nerve may experience increased sensitivity to touch in the affected area.
- Burning sensation: In some cases, a pinched nerve can cause a burning sensation in the affected area.
- Radiating pain: Pain from a pinched nerve may radiate or spread to other parts of the body. For example, a pinched nerve in the neck may cause pain in the shoulder and arm.
A pinched nerve can occur when excessive pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues such as bones, muscles, cartilage, or tendons. This pressure can disrupt the nerve’s function and cause a range of symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in the affected area.
Some common causes of pinched nerves include:
- Herniated or bulging discs in the spine: Discs act as cushions between the vertebrae in your spine. When a disc protrudes or bulges out of its normal position, it can put pressure on the nearby nerves, leading to a pinched nerve.
- Arthritis: Arthritis can cause the joints to become inflamed and swollen, which can put pressure on the nerves around them.
- Repetitive motion: Certain occupations or activities that require repetitive motions can cause pinched nerves over time. Examples include typing, sewing, playing musical instruments, or sports like tennis or golf.
- Injury: Trauma from a fall, car accident, or sports injury can also cause pinched nerves.
- Pregnancy: As the uterus expands during pregnancy, it can put pressure on the nerves in the lower back and pelvis, leading to a pinched nerve.
- Obesity: Excess weight can put pressure on the nerves in the spine and other parts of the body, increasing the risk of pinched nerves.
- Poor posture: Sitting or standing in the same position for long periods of time with poor posture can put pressure on the nerves, leading to a pinched nerve.
There are several tests that can help diagnose a pinched nerve, depending on the location and severity of the nerve compression. Here are a few common tests:
- Nerve conduction study (NCS): This test measures the speed of nerve signals as they travel through the nerves. It can identify areas of nerve damage or compression.
- Electromyography (EMG): This test measures the electrical activity of muscles and can help determine if muscle weakness or atrophy is caused by nerve damage.
- Spurling’s test: This test is used to diagnose cervical radiculopathy, a condition in which a nerve in the neck is pinched. The doctor will have the patient tilt their head to one side and then apply pressure to the top of the head. If the patient experiences pain, tingling, or numbness on the same side as the head tilt, it may indicate a pinched nerve in the neck.
- Straight leg raise test: This test is used to diagnose sciatica, a condition in which the sciatic nerve in the lower back is pinched. The patient lies on their back, and the doctor raises one leg while keeping the knee straight. If the patient experiences pain or numbness that radiates down the back of the leg, it may indicate sciatica.
- Tinel’s sign: This test is used to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition in which the median nerve in the wrist is pinched. The doctor will tap the wrist over the median nerve, and if the patient experiences tingling or numbness in the fingers, it may indicate carpal tunnel syndrome.
Physical therapy can be an effective treatment option for a pinched nerve, which occurs when a nerve is compressed or irritated. Here are some ways physical therapy can help:
- Stretching exercises: A physical therapist can guide you through exercises that help stretch the muscles and tissues around the affected nerve, which can relieve pressure on the nerve.
- Strengthening exercises: Weakness in the muscles surrounding the pinched nerve can contribute to the problem. A physical therapist can design exercises to help strengthen those muscles and improve overall function.
- Manual therapy: This can include massage, mobilization, and manipulation techniques that help alleviate pressure on the nerve and improve the range of motion.
- Posture correction: Poor posture can contribute to nerve compression. A physical therapist can teach you proper body mechanics and ergonomics to help prevent future nerve impingements.
- Heat or ice therapy: Applying heat or cold to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
- Steroid injections: If the pinched nerve is causing severe pain or inflammation, a doctor may recommend a steroid injection to reduce swelling and relieve pain.
- Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help reduce pain and inflammation. In some cases, prescription medications may be necessary.
- Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure on the nerve. This may involve removing a portion of a bone or a herniated disc that is pressing on the nerve.
Can you fix a pinched nerve with physical therapy?
Physical therapy as a method of treating pinched nerves is more effective than other non-surgical methods
What are treatment options for a pinched nerve?
2. Physical therapy
4. Chiropractic care
Can pinched nerve be cured permanently?
The ability to permanently cure a pinched nerve depends on the underlying cause of the compression. In some cases, such as a pinched nerve due to a herniated disc or bone spur, surgical intervention may be necessary to remove the source of the compression and relieve the pressure on the nerve. In these cases, surgery may provide a permanent solution.
In other cases, non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy, chiropractic care, or medication may be effective in relieving symptoms and preventing the nerve from becoming pinched again. However, it’s important to note that these treatments may not provide a permanent cure, as the nerve may still be susceptible to compression in the future.