Do you wake up unable to move your head from side to side? Is the pain in your neck and shoulders so bad, that you’re taking over-the-counter medication? Has applying ice or using a heating pad stopped relieving your pain? Do your fingers become numb or has your foot fallen asleep? Then, you may have a pinched nerve.
A pinched nerve – also referred to as a slipped disc, prolapsed disc, bulging disc, ruptured disc, or even degenerative disc disease, is usually caused by compression, constriction or stretching. When too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues (bones, cartilage, discs, muscles or tendons), a pinched nerve may result. This compression disrupts the nerve’s function, and causes pain, a burning or “pins and needles” sensation, numbness, muscle weakness or twitching to the affected area. Coughing or sneezing may aggravate the pain, if the pinched nerve comes directly from the spinal cord.
A pinched nerve can occur and travel to various parts of the body. A herniated disc in the lower spine, may place pressure on a nerve root, causing pain to radiate down the back of your leg – also known as sciatica. A pinched nerve in the wrist can lead to pain, numbness or tingling in the hand and fingers – also known as carpal tunnel syndrome. A pinched nerve in the neck will often cause symptoms in the shoulders, arms, elbow, wrists or hands.
Nerves can be “pinched” by bone spurs or discs, or irritated by stiff and restricted joints and muscles. The result is the same… pain, numbness and tingling! Certain lifestyle choices and experiences can cause a pinched nerve and lead to complications. These include a slip and fall, auto or sports injury; walking, standing or sleeping with poor posture; obesity, stress from repetitive motion (job or hobby related), twisting or turning the body awkwardly or turning too quickly. Additional risk factors include gender – women are three times more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, possibly due to having smaller carpal tunnels, rheumatoid arthritis, pregnancy (water and weight gain can swell nerve pathways) and heredity.
Early diagnosis and treatment are the best ways to begin correcting a pinched nerve. As Spine Specialists, we begin the diagnostic process with a Health History and a discussion of symptoms and previous treatments. A physical examination (structural and muscular); x-rays (can show a narrowed disc space, fracture, bone spur or arthritis); observation of posture, range of motion, pelvic balance (to establish if there is “short leg”) and physical condition – both standing and lying down will follow. A magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI) or a computerized axial tomography scan (CT or CAT scan) can show soft tissue or a bulging disc. If nerve damage is suspected, a Nerve Conduction Study (Nerve Conduction Velocity Test) or an electromyography (EMG) may be ordered.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed and the exact nature of the problem is established, a customized treatment plan is implemented. Pinched nerve treatment results are often maximized when multiple treatment options are combined. Treatments and pain relievers may include:
Pain Management: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, naproxen) can help relieve pain and alleviate inflammation around the nerve. Other options to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and muscle spasms may include Prescription Pain Medication Intervention, Trigger Point Injections, Joint Injections, Epidural Injections, Nerve Blocks, Facet Joint Blocks and Radio Frequency Nerve Ablation.
Physical Therapy and Exercise: The focus is on pain relief, healing, restoring, function and movement and improving body mechanics. Assistive devices and orthotics, such as tape, braces or splints can help protect joints from further injury and stress. Herniated disc exercises reduce joint pain and stiffness and increase flexibility, muscle strength and endurance. Range-of-Motion Exercises help to maintain normal joint movement, relieve stiffness and increase flexibility; Strengthening Exercises help increase muscle strength and Endurance or Aerobic Exercises improve cardiovascular fitness, help control weight and improve overall function. The side effect of exercise is weight reduction, which will place less pressure on joints. Many people continue their exercise program, after their prescribed physical therapy is completed. Our physical therapists provide a customized home exercise program for patients.
Chiropractic: A subluxation or misalignment of the spine can cause a pinched nerve. It is one of the most common causes of neck and back pain. Non-surgical spinal decompression and physical manipulation allow joints to be directly adjusted – reducing pain and stiffness. By correcting joint and spine subluxations, chiropractic adjustments help increase range-of-motion. Massage (increases flexibility and circulation), Heat Therapy (increases blood flow and relaxes tissue), Cold Therapy (reduces swelling and pain) and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation which stimulates pain-inhibiting chemicals in the body) are also offered.
Traditional Chinese Medicine: Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine have been used for thousands of years in China to treat disease, and improve and maintain overall health. Acupuncture naturally removes the obstruction and enhances the body’s healing power. The whole body benefits…circulation improves, stress is automatically reduced and pain is lifted.
Nutritional Recommendations: The typical American diet is rich in grain-fed animal protein and fat, resulting in a population of overweight adults and rising obesity rates. These extra pounds can damage joints in the lower extremities – hips, knees, ankles and feet. Consuming junk food, high-fat meats and sugar may increase inflammation – due to unhealthy fats (especially trans fats and saturated fats) used in preparation and processing.
Processed meats, (lunch meats and hot dogs) may contain chemicals (nitrites) associated with increased inflammation. Acidity can cause the physical body to suffer with all sorts of pains. Diets high in sugar (sodas, pastries, sweetened cereals and candy) are associated with inflammation and should be eliminated. Finally, nightshades – potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant contain a chemical alkaloid – solanine, which can trigger pain in some people.
Prior to creating a healthy eating program, laboratory tests may be recommended to detect and correct nutritional imbalances, such as a calcium, vitamin D or potassium deficiency. In general, a diet of fresh, organic, whole foods – close to their natural state helps reduce pain and promote health. Consume whole fruits and vegetables, such as black cherries and broccoli which are rich in antioxidants – having anti-inflammatory properties. Blackberries contain salicylic acid – the same active ingredient in aspirin, chili peppers contain capsaicin to fight inflammation, pineapple contains bromelain (enzyme) to help reduce inflammation and green tea contains phytochemicals – to decrease inflammation. Curry, ginger, mustard, and turmeric contain curcumin – an anti-inflammatory. To avoid a deficiency in potassium, consume avocadoes, apricots, beets, bananas, dates, figs, melons, roasted peanuts, almonds, orange juice or prunes. Essential fatty acids – Omega 3 and Omega 6 in a 1:1 ratio (Salmon, Sardines and Tuna) decrease inflammation, joint pain, swelling and stiffness. To reduce acidity, include cucumber, papaya, apple or water melon to your diet. In addition, eating 2-3 hours before you go to sleep will help reduce acidity. Drink pure, filtered water that is fluoride-free to prevent dehydration and help to maintain the proper percentage of water within the body (minimum of 50-60% of body weight). Free-range chicken, free-range eggs and milk (not skim) nourish the body.
Lifestyle Recommendations: It is necessary to change or modify activities that cause pain, modify the home and work areas (use a reacher tool to pick up things off the floor), maintain proper posture while standing, sitting or sleeping and wear comfortable and supportive shoes.
Home Remedies: Although, we recommend an evaluation prior to treatment, a hot pack, hot water bottle or sitting in a hot bath or jetted tub may help alleviate pain. A cold pack, ice pack or cold pressure may help to numb pain. Using a soothing hot oil or lotion, gently massage the area – slowly building up the pressure until the muscle loosens. Other home remedies may include a cervical collar, splint or support. An over-the-door home unit for cervical traction may be used to relieve pain, muscle tension and spasm in the upper back, shoulders, and neck. Cervical traction gently lifts the weight of the head off the neck – temporarily decompressing pinched and inflamed nerves.
A combination of therapies is considered based upon the patient and his or her condition. The goal of our non-surgical treatment is to reduce pain and inflammation, maximize energy and stamina; improve mobility and strength, learn proper posture and bodily movements to avoid strain and resume normal activities. Exercising is an effective way to strengthen and stabilize muscles and prevent further injury and pain. Strong muscles support body weight and bones – taking unnecessary pressure off the spine. Maintaining a proper weight can reduce pain and promote health. While a firm mattress is important, staying in bed for more than 1 or 2 days can weaken muscles and make the problem worse. And of course, do not smoke… it increases the risk of a disc injury.
If you are looking for non-surgical options, we can help. Discover our innovative pinched nerve treatment program in East Brunswick, New Jersey and perhaps… avoid surgery.
Call New Jersey’s own Alternative Integrated Medical Services today at 732-254-5553 and receive a FREE Initial Consultation. Our goal is to provide the most advanced and compassionate pain relief. Our Team of Experts and friendly staff at your local East Brunswick, NJ AIMS Clinic, will help you reduce or eliminate pain and improve function. As our patient, we will teach you how to regain your health with our revolutionary new treatment program.