You have nerves that extend from your brain and spinal cord to other parts of your body. These nerves carry important messages from your brain to your body and back again.
If you are dealing with a pinched nerve, also known as a compressed nerve, your body may send warning signals such as pain- you should never ignore these signals.
Pinched nerves could cause minor or even severe nerve damage- which could be temporary or long-term.
The earlier you are able to be diagnosed and treated for pinched nerves, the quicker you’ll be able to obtain some relief. However, you should be aware that damage due to pinched nerves is not always reversible.
What Causes Pinched Nerves?
A pinched nerve is the result of too much pressure, or compression, being applied to a particular nerve by surrounding tissues. In some cases, this tissue could be cartilage or bone, or it could be tendons or even muscles causing the pinched nerve.
When it comes to carpal tunnel syndrome, there are a variety of tissues that could be causing the compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel, including: enlarged bone, swollen tendons, or even a thickened, degenerated ligament.
There are several different conditions that could cause tissue to compress a nerve including:
- Poor posture
- Repetitive motion
- Hobbies/sports activities
- Rheumatoid arthritis/wrist arthritis
Pressure on the nerve causes the nerve to become inflamed, and therefore disrupts the functioning of the nerve. Typically, there is no damage if the nerve is pinched for a short period of time.
Once the pressure is released, the functioning of the nerves return to normal. On the other hand, if the pressure is present for a long period of time, permanent damage and chronic pain can result.
Symptoms of Pinched Nerves
Signs and symptoms of pinched nerves include the following:
- Numbness/decrease in sensation
- Sharp/aching/burning pain
- Tingling “falling asleep” sensation
- Muscle weakness
These could be worse when you’re sleeping or trying to sleep.
Risk Factors for Pinched Nerves
There are specific factors that could cause you to be at a greater risk for developing pinched nerves.
- Poor posture can put pressure on your spine and nerves.
- Women are much more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome due to the fact that they have smaller carpal tunnels.
- Experiencing some trauma or having a condition that causes bone spurs, such as osteoarthritis, can cause the spine to stiffen and narrow the space where nerves travel, therefore pinching your nerves.
- Inflammation that is caused by RA can cause nerve compression, especially in your joints.
- Individuals who have thyroid disease are at a much greater risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
There are some other factors that could contribute to or cause nerve compression.
- Individuals who have diabetes are at a much higher risk for pinched nerves.
- Jobs/hobbies that require repetitive motions of wrists, hands, or shoulders can increase your chances of developing a pinched nerve.
- Being obese can add pressure to your nerves, increasing the possibility of nerve compression.
- Water and weight gain as a result of pregnancy can cause nerve pathways to swell, therefore causing nerve compression.
- Some individuals seem to be genetically predisposed to conditions that cause pinched nerves.
How to Treat Pinched Nerves
Treating a pinched nerve can be quite difficult since the main way to treat it is through rest. This could include using a splint or brace to protect and support the area around the nerve.
Once the pathways of your nerves have been disrupted, no matter what caused it, you are likely to experience pain, numbness, tingling, and even weakness.
The best thing to do when you have a pinched nerve is to address the tendons, muscles, and ligaments in the area that I distressed.
Most of the time, the cause is that the tissue around the nerve has become stressed and inflamed for some reason- usually an injury of some sort. Your main options for treatment in this case is massage, medication, and physical therapy.
When looking for ways to treat a pinched nerve, it is of utmost importance that you identify and isolate where the nerve is pinched- as it can happen anywhere.
For example, you can have a herniated disc causing sciatica pain that runs down the back of your leg. Additionally, neck, shoulders, wrists, and elbows are common places for pinched nerves to develop.
You can use acupressure and acupuncture to successfully treat a pinched nerve. According to Chinese medicine, it is believed that chronic pain/discomfort is a result of the energy flow through the body being blocked. Both acupressure and acupuncture can release these blockages.
When there is a blockage in a meridian channel, the inflammation and swelling that result can cause nerve compression.
When you release that blockage with acupressure or acupuncture, the natural energy flow is restored. This means that the inflamed tissue will relax and the nerve compression will be released.
If the pain is completely intolerable, consider using anti-inflammatory medicines, gentle massage, or even muscle relaxers to alleviate the intensity of the pain.
These methods can calm the surrounding areas, which reduces pressure and swelling. Most of the time, massage can be very effective at manipulating the muscles to relax. This can provide some relief until the tissue is able to heal and the pressure removed.
In severe cases of pinched nerves, your physician may recommend that you have surgery to treat your pinched nerve.
If your condition has continued for several months, you may have to have bone spurs or a herniated disc removed, or even have a carpal ligament severed.
However, if surgery or a brace is not appropriate based on the location of the pinched nerve, your physician may want to use corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation and pain.
You should know that it is possible to avoid pinched nerves through basic common sense.
Keeping you weight healthy and practicing good posture, as well as performing flexing exercises and reducing repetitive motion work can help to prevent the painful condition of pinched nerves.