OrthoNeuroSpine & Pain Institute
What causes a pinched nerve?
A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues; such as bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons. This pressure (compression) disrupts the nerve’s function causing pain, tingling, numbness or weakness in the affected area. Common causes of pinched nerves in the spine include herniated discs, bulging discs or degenerative disc disease. A pinched nerve refers to a condition in which a nerve is pressed by its surrounding tissues (bones, cartilage, muscles, etc) and its normal function has been disrupted because of the pressure.
What are the symptoms associated with a pinched nerve?
Symptoms of a pinched nerve may include shooting pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness. Some patients also complain parts of their body such as feet “falling asleep”.
Where does a pinched nerve occur?
A pinched nerve can occur anywhere in your body. For example, a herniated disc in your lower spine may put pressure on a nerve root, causing pain that radiates down the back of your leg (sciatica). Another common type of pinched nerve is the median nerve in the carpal tunnel in your wrist; compression of that nerve can lead to pain and numbness in your hand and fingers (carpal tunnel syndrome). These are just two common examples of pinched nerves; many other nerves can be pinched – including those in your neck, shoulder, elbow and other areas.
What can cause a pinched nerve?
The following factors may increase your risk of experiencing a pinched nerve:
- Posture – poor posture adds pressure to your spine and nerves.
- Osteoarthritis – nerves can become pinched in the bone spurs caused by osteoarthritis.
- Overuse – jobs or hobbies that require repetitive hand, wrist or shoulder movements, such as assembly line work, increase your likelihood of a pinched nerve.
- Obesity – excess weight can add pressure to nerves.
- Heredity – some people appear to be genetically predisposed to conditions that lead to pinched nerves.
A patient may have a tight or small canal for the nerves to pass through (spinal stenosis)
There may be wear and tear resulting in changes to the facet or zygapophysial joints (small joints in the back of the spine)
There may be wear and tear resulting in changes to the disc (the flexible section between the spine bones that allows our spines to twist and bend).
Occasionally, the disc may have wear and tear on it causing the inside (nucleus pulposus) toothpaste-like substance to ooze outside of the outer walls of the disc (annulus fibrosus), causing a “disc herniation,” This disc herniation can irritate the nerve as it passes by, subsequently causing arm pain (if the disc problem is in the neck) or leg pain (if the disc problem is in the low back).
I’ve had pain, numbness, tingling or muscle weakness for several days; they don’t respond to rest and over-the-counter pain relievers. Could it be a pinched nerve?
Yes, it could be. You need to get an appropriate medical diagnosis. Your general practitioner will be able to do a physical exam or conduct necessary tests – nerve conduction study or electromyography. These tests are often completed at the same time and take about one hour. You could also obtain an MRI or CT Scan.
What are pinched nerve exercises?
Exercising regularly is good for our overall health. Certain exercises are particularly good for pinched nerves, and we call these exercises pinched nerve exercises. Pinched nerve symptoms may be alleviated by regularly performing pinched nerve exercises, which help relieve some pressure placed on your spine and prevent your bones from becoming brittle and. But make sure that you don’t do any exercises that cause you additional discomfort. For more details see pinched nerve exercises.
Will physical therapy for a pinched nerve help me?
Physical therapy for a pinched nerve can be very beneficial when incorporated into a comprehensive treatment program; It may help minimize your pain. As the pain improves, physical therapy can help you advance to a rehabilitation program involving core strength and stability training. Furthermore, if you choose to continue physical therapy, therapy for a pinched nerve can help you prevent additional occurrence and/or future injury.
Are there tests that can determine a Pinched Nerve?
If you think you woke up with a pinched nerve—or if you seem to have developed that pain over the course of the day—you do have some self-care options.
The pain may be coming from a muscle spasm or strain that’s putting pressure on the nerve, so you can try relaxing your muscles. Try, for example:
- Alternating between heat and ice on the affected area: switch between them every 20 minutes, and remember to wrap the heat and ice packs in a towel before putting them on your skin.
- Taking a hot shower.
- Laying down with a rolled up towel under your neck.
- Using a handheld massager.
- Getting a massage.
- Take an anti-inflammatory.
What is the difference between a pinched nerve and radiculopathy?
A radiculopathy is an advanced form of a pinched nerve. When a nerve compression or a pinched nerve causes nerve damage it is considered a radiculopathy. The most common cause for a radiculopathy is a disc herniation in the neck or lower spine.