Pinched nerves are a common problem among the elderly and those who perform frequent repetitive movements every day. Most of the time, this painful condition heals on its own, but it may cause permanent nerve damage and significant disability when left neglected. While there isn’t a single underlying cause of compressed nerves, proper care and prevention can make a big difference. Let this complete injury guide help you make informed decisions.
What is a Pinched Nerve?
A pinched nerve is a deep root nerve that has become irritated and inflamed. Several factors can contribute to this condition, including age, gender, past injuries, and level of physical activity.
Location of the Pinched Nerve
Our bodies have a complicated network of nerves, which extend from the brain through the spinal cord down our hands, legs, and other areas to send sensory information to the muscles. Therefore, a pinched nerve can develop anywhere.
Pinched Nerve in the Leg and Foot
A pinched nerve in leg and a pinched nerve in hip are often referred to as sciatic nerve pain, or sciatica. It is a form of lumbar radiculopathy.
Pinched Nerve in the Spine
A lot of people associate this painful condition with the shoulder and neck, but a pinched nerve in the back is even more common. If you have deep constant back pain, a pinched nerve might be the result of a herniated disc.
Pinched Nerve in the Elbow and Hand
A pinched nerve in the elbow might be a by-product of a condition called tennis elbow, or a compressed the ulnar nerve. In the wrist, it could be carpal tunnel syndrome. Sometimes, a pinched nerve in arm can be caused by cysts, arthritis, and even diabetes.
Pinched Nerve in the Neck and Shoulder
Cervical radiculopathy is a type of pinched nerve in back of neck. It occurs when the vertebrae at the top of the backbone is damaged. Neck pain from pinched nerves is linked to conditions such as osteoarthritis, stenosis, and a bulging disc.
What Causes a Pinched Nerve
To determine how to relieve a pinched nerve, you must first understand the numerous reasons why it develops. Pinched nerves happen when there is too much pressure on a nerve due to repetitive motions or degenerative changes as we age.
A pinched nerve in cervical spine, for example, can occur because of narrowing of the spine. Other things that could cause the compression are traumatic injury, playing a sport, poor posture, extreme workout, or overuse on the job.
Pinched Nerve Symptoms
What does a pinched nerve feel like? If you have a chronic nerve compression, your body will send you a warning signal. Even though symptoms depend on the location, one of the first signs of a pinched nerve is a sharp, burning pain. Other red flags include:
- Muscle weakness
- Diminished muscle mass (muscle atrophy)
- Numbness and tenderness
- Increased pain when lifting, standing, twisting or walking
- Tingling or the feeling of needles and pins (paresthesia)
- Loss of sensation
- Trouble sleeping
- Dizziness and headache
- Cold sensitivity in the affected hand or arm
When to See a Doctor About a Pinched Nerve
Pinched nerve symptoms usually get worse just after waking up or while you are lying down. For those with a pinched nerve in the shoulder, pain and stiffness can radiate to the lower back. Watch out for signs of an infection, such as nausea, chills, and fever. These should not be ignored, as they might indicate a more serious nerve-related issue.
Diagnosing a Pinched Nerve
A pinched nerve can cause minor to severe damage, which may result in temporary or long-lasting medical issues. In some cases, the damage from a nerve compression can’t be reversed. This is why an earlier diagnosis is always better.
Health care providers make a pinched nerve diagnosis by performing a thorough physical examination and taking a history of symptoms. Depending on the findings, further testing may be ordered to help confirm if it is a lumbar pinched nerve or not.
To make an accurate diagnosis of pinched nerve, many different tests will likely be conducted. These include:
An X-ray can produce detailed views of the bones in the spine, but not the discs and nerves. However, this imaging test can provide clues whether there are bone spurs growing or how much narrowing has developed between the vertebrae.
A CT scan is helpful for diagnosing nerve compression because it can tell a doctor the health of discs and nerves.
If the compressed nerve is in the neck, an MRI scan may be required to discover possible causes. This test can be useful in detecting nerve root compression.
This nerve conduction study can help rule out a pinched nerve in lower back and evaluate the extent of the damage. Results can tell whether the nerves leading to the muscle are affected.
Pinched Nerve Treatment
What is the best way to treat a pinched nerve? There are several methods to alleviate the pain and discomfort of a pinched nerve at home. Here are some treatment methods to consider:
Fixing pinched nerves involve the use of braces to prevent movement for several days.
Neck braces offer the support and protection you need for a reliable pinched nerve recovery. ( See Product on Amazon)
An adjustable soft cervical collar is a safe and effective remedy for a pinched nerve in the neck. It provides superior support and pain relief, so you can wear it throughout the day and during sleep. When used correctly, it can stabilize and realign vertebrae.
Try finger braces for protection from some of the most common pinched nerve causes. ( See Product on Amazon)
When the nerves in your hand or fingers are trapped, pain and swelling may occur at the site of damage as well as further down the inflamed nerve’s path. Depending on your condition, the doctor may recommend wearing a wrist brace while it heals.
Get your own elbow brace and take pressure off of fragile joints, and keep pinched nerves at bay. ( See Product on Amazon)
Elbow braces can take the pressure off of your arm while it is still healing. Make sure to choose one that features therapeutic compression, slip-resistant neoprene blend, and adjustable fasteners.
Consider exercising once the initial swelling and numbness are under control. Stretching and strength-building pinched nerve exercises will speed up the healing process and improve your range of motion. Work closely with a physical therapist to strengthen the muscles in the affected area. He or she can also suggest modifications to your daily activities that aggravate the nerves.
To improve flexibility and enhance recovery, use a stretch strap during exercise.
A hot and cold therapy wrap can speed recovery and ease pain. ( See Product on Amazon)
Alternating hot and cold therapy is a safe and effective pinched nerve remedy. In fact, using a gel-based ice and heat therapy pack can improve blood circulation and lessen inflammation in the affected area, which will help gradually reduce pain.
It is advisable to apply the ice pack for fifteen minutes at a time, at least three times a day. Hot therapy, on the other hand, can be used up to an hour for three times a day. If you have a pinched nerve in upper back, try elevating your legs at a 45-degree angle to eliminate any pressure from the spine.
Pinched Nerve Medications
There are over-the-counter pinched nerve pain medications that can ease the pain and reduce swelling. Before taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen, be sure to let your doctor know and ask for dosage recommendations. It is important to be aware of the potential interactions prior to using NSAIDs.
For severe cases, pinched nerve surgery may be the ideal solution. The type of surgery for your condition will vary—based on the location of the compressed nerve. Discuss the pros and cons with a specialist because not all procedures will address the real cause of pain related to a pinched nerve.
Pinched Nerve Recovery
The estimated healing time depends on the type of treatment you choose and the extent of nerve damage. It is worth noting that every patient responds differently to pinched nerve pain relief methods. Typically, though, pinched nerve recovery takes two to four weeks. Mild pinched nerves can heal on their own in a few days.
Discovering What To Do for a Pinched Nerve
A pinched nerve can be quite serious, and should not be shrugged off as a minor issue. Even if you do not have arthritis or bone spurs, you could still suffer nerve compression. Once the exact location of your discomfort has been determined, pinched nerve pain medication and other treatment methods can have you feeling healthy again in no time.