Causes, Symptoms and Treatment of Pinched Nerve
Nerves are the crucial conduits in the body responsible for carrying impulses between the brain and various parts of the body. They enable important bodily functions such as movement and perception of pain. One of the conditions that affect the nerves is compressed or pinched nerve.
A pinched nerve refers to a situation where a single nerve or set of nerves experienced excessive pressure. This pressure or compression brings about a number of symptoms with the most common one being pain. It also diminished nerve function with the damage being serious in severe cases of nerve compression.
Health problems such carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow are as the result of a pinched nerve.
Causes of pinched Nerve
As mentioned, pinched nerve is as a result of pressure on a nerve. This pressure may arise from surrounding tissue including ligaments, cartilage, bones and tendons. A herniated disk (a weakened or torn disk) in the spine may also act to pinch a spinal nerve thus inducing pain in the lower or upper back.
Certain actions have been discovered to cause tissue to press on nearby nerves. Repetitive movement such as that of typing or writing is a common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Bad sleeping positions can lead to a pinched nerve in the neck or arms as can staying in one position for too long.
Some causes of pinched nerve arise from illnesses. Some of these causative diseases include arthritis, degenerative disc disease, thyroid disease, Facet disease and bulging disc.
Research has also brought to light the fact that obesity can contribute notably to the occurrence of pinched nerve. Other risk factors to take note of include pregnancy, heredity, jobs that involve repetitive tasks and diabetes.
Symptoms of Pinched Nerve
A lot of people with a pinched nerve experience pain as the first and most dominant symptom. The pain is usually limited to the location of the affected nerve. So if a lower back nerve is pinched, pain is most likely to occur in the legs and lower back. For pinched nerve in the arm, the pain will occur in the arm and probably shoulder. The pain experienced is described as radiating. This is because it arises from a single point and spreads outwards from there.
Pain can also occur alongside or other symptoms discussed below.
• A noticeable decrease in sensation in the affected area. This is referred to as numbness. Its severity varies with the seriousness of the pressure or damage experienced by the nerve.
• Paresthesia or tingling. These pins and needles sensations are usually the beginning signs that a nerve is in the first stages of damage.
• Muscle weakness. The muscle of the affected area experiences weakness especially during a specific activity. The best sign of this is in carpal tunnel syndrome where a pinched nerve in the wrist causes muscle weakness in the hand grip and various fingers.
• A stiff and painful neck is a symptom if a pinched nerve in the neck. It results from wrong sitting or standing posture or a poor sleeping position that puts too much pressure on the neck.
If treatment is not sought soon, the pressure on the nerve may become too much as to block nutrients from reaching a part of the nerve. The nerve cells slowly die off and the damage cannot be reversed. In this case, complete numbness results and muscle contraction becomes impossible.
Treatment Options for Pinched Nerves
For some people, a pinched nerve can be cured by simply taking some time off from a certain activity. Resting the affected part can resolve the situation. Support braces can be used to fully immobilize the affected area and allow quick recovery. This is however the case only in non-serious situations. If after stopping what you are doing and resting the symptoms still persists or get worse, it is time to seek medical attention.
The first step when you go to the doctor is diagnosis. A diagnosis enables the doctor to detect exactly where the pinched nerve is, the severity of the situation and what parts of the body have been affected. This helps in determining the best treatment.
Some of the diagnostic procedures that may be used include Electromyography (EMG) to test electrical activity in muscles, Nerve conduction study to measure impulses in nerves and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to get highly detailed views of the whole body.
After the diagnosis the treatment decided upon depends on the area affected and the severity of the pinched nerve.
Physiotherapy or physical therapy is aimed at returning the body to its normal functioning. Through exercises, the muscles and other tissue can be induced to relieve the pressure they are applying on the nerve. This treatment has to be applied repeatedly over time for positive results to be achieved.
The doctor may recommend certain medications. Some of the most commonly recommended drugs are Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. These include ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen. Other medications include steroids to lower swelling and inflammation, oral corticosteroids to help in swelling and pain reduction and narcotics to deal with severe pain.
In certain cases, the pinched nerve cannot be cured by physiotherapy or medication. This is where surgery becomes the only option. Surgery is recommended when the symptoms do not go away for extended periods of time after treatment is administered. A pre-treatment diagnosis can also reveal whether surgery is necessary to treat a serious condition of pinched nerve.
During surgery, the tissue that is pressing on the nerve is removed or modified to allow more room for the nerve. Thought it comes with considerably high risk, surgery provides a more permanent and effective treatment to pinched nerve.
Remember that the earlier you seek treatment for pinched nerve he quicker treatment can be done. You may even be able to avoid undergoing surgery.
Instead of waiting until you have to seek treatment for pinched nerve, there are some steps you can take to lower your risk. They include maintaining good body postures whether asleep or awake, taking frequent rests when doing repetitive tasks, avoid obesity and exercise regularly to improve body strength and flexibility.