Where do you turn when you wake up with pain in your neck – so painful that you are unable to move? Or, what if while sitting at your desk, you start to feel a tingling or numbness in your leg? Perhaps it’s time to have a professional evaluate your symptoms and determine if you are suffering with pinched nerve symptoms. Damage from a pinched nerve can be minor or severe, as well as temporary or long-lasting. Therefore, a diagnosis and treatment are vital.
Common symptoms of a pinched nerve include:
- In addition to pain in the neck, pain may occur in the low-back, arm or leg.
- Pain that radiates to other areas. This includes a pinched nerve of the low back with symptoms radiating down the leg – or sciatica; a pinched nerve in the wrist with symptoms radiating into the hands and fingers – or carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Weakness with certain activities, such as playing a musical instrument or gardening.
What causes a pinched nerve?
A pinched nerve, also referred to as a slipped disc, prolapsed disc, bulging disc, ruptured disc or as degenerated disc disease, occurs when there is pressure, constriction or stretching of a nerve. Pinched nerve symptoms may be due to:
- Subluxation: A misalignment in the spine, in which one or more of the bones (vertebrae) move out of position and place pressure or irritate spinal nerves. This can impact nerve function.
- Poor Posture: Many people sink into a couch, slump over a computer or lift incorrectly; placing pressure on the spine and nerves.
- Bulging or Herniated Disc: An injury, disease or normal wear and tear may cause a disc to bulge or break open, which could press on a nerve root and result in a pinched nerve.
- Bone Spurs: A bone spur can stiffen the spine or narrow the space where the nerves travel – resulting in a pinched nerve. A trauma or a health condition, such as osteoarthritis, diabetes or a thyroid condition; can cause bone spurs.
- Repetitive Motion: Whether job or hobby related, the repetitive motion can cause a pinched nerve. Assembly workers, hairstylists or golfers may increase the risk of developing a pinched nerve.
- Water and Weight Gain: Additional weight (including pregnancy) can swell nerve pathways – compressing the nerves.
Effective treatment for pinched nerve is available.
Pain may not be associated with a pinched nerve; therefore seeking the advice of a doctor or therapist is vital. Pinched nerve symptoms are confirmed once an evaluation and examination has been completed. Testing may include orthopedic and neurological testing, x-rays and/or an MRI or CAT scan. The patient’s posture, range-of-motion, pelvic balance and physical condition are part of this evaluation. During the consultation process, a patient will discuss his/her family history, lifestyle activities and previous treatment for the symptoms. If necessitated, a Nerve Conduction Study or EMG may be requested to rule out nerve damage.
Together with the patient, treatment for pinched nerve is discussed and a customized program is created. Options may include an integration of some of the following:
- Chiropractic: A Chiropractor specializes in identifying and correcting subluxations that cause pinched nerves. This is accomplished by restoring normal alignment using physical manipulation (adjustment), ultrasound, TENS (transcutaneous electric muscle stimulation), ice or heat therapy, spinal decompression, massage and/or myofascial release technique. Recommendations are provided to maintain proper posture at home, work and play.
- Physical Therapy: Assistive devises, orthotics, Kinesio taping and exercise (strengthening, range-of-motion and aerobic) help to relieve pain, speed healing and restore function. Once approved by your doctor or therapist, exercise can help to stabilize muscles and prevent additional injury and pain.
- Acupuncture: For thousands of years, Acupuncture has been utilized to treat disease improve health and maintain wellness. By improving circulation and reducing stress – pain is reduced and for many, eliminated.
- Pain Management: Trigger Point Injections (TPIs) relax the muscle and relieve pain by placing medication into the trigger point – which has irritated surrounding nerves and causing pain.
- Nutrition and Weight Management: Extra pounds can increase the weight placed upon the hips, knees, ankles and feet. Junk food, sugar, processed meats, and high-fat meats can cause inflammation. A Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist can create a healthy eating plan to correct imbalances and recommend food and supplements to decrease inflammation.
Therefore, if you want to know what to do for a pinched nerve, as you can see, many options are available… either alone or by integration. If you believe you may have a pinched nerve, it is important to understand what causes a pinched nerve (for you).