When You Pinch a Nerve

You often hear someone talk about “pinching a nerve.” But pinched nerves are really compressed nerves. Nerves become pinched/compressed when pressure is applied to them by the surrounding tissues, such as bones, cartilage, discs, muscles, tendons, or bone spurs. This pressure disrupts the function of the nerve and can produce pain in the local area and the pain can radiate down to the area served by the nerve. 

At DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, Dr. Tinley treats issues with compressed nerves every day, so for these autumnal blogs, let’s get into pinched nerves and what we do about them at DFW. 

What causes a pinched nerve? 

The central nervous system is made up of the brain and the spinal cord. Peripheral nerves are the nerve roots that exit the spinal cord/spinal canal and branch out into the body. Where the nerve root exits the individual vertebra is known as the foramen, small hollows between each vertebra. 

These spaces are not overly large, and they can narrow because of disc degradation, bone spurs, or inflammation in the surrounding tissue that places pressure on the nerve itself. 

This compression, or pinching, typically leads to back pain and eventual loss of muscle function if not treated. 

Is there any way to prevent pinching a nerve? 

Pinched nerves can result from something as simple as enduring poor posture. The degradation that is part of osteoarthritis also can damage the spinal discs to the extent that they bulge or herniate and begin to press on nearby nerves. 

To try and avoid these issues, regular exercise and strengthening are important. A strong, but flexible, back and core can reduce the risk of spinal injury, stenosis, and deterioration. Overall stress placed on all parts of the spine can be lowered by maintaining a healthy weight. Eating a healthy diet and not smoking, which can inhibit blood flow and block the delivery of nutrients to the spine and its nerves, also make a difference. 

Where do pinched nerves usually occur? 

Of the three sections of the spine — the seven vertebrae in the cervical spine, the 12 vertebrae of the thoracic spine, and the five vertebrae in the lumbar spine — the cervical/neck area and the lumbar/lower back area are the most common locations where nerves are compressed. Another oddly common spot is the wrist, as evidenced by carpal tunnel syndrome. 

If you have chronic pain, it’s likely due to a long-term pinched/compressed nerve. Call Dr. Tinley at DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, (817) 916-4685, and let’s see what’s going on.

Posted in: Pinched Nerve

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