What Are Pinched Nerves?
Compresses nerves are also known as pinched nerves. Nerves become pinched when pressure is applied to them by 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 and surrounding area. Certain pinched nerves can even project pain into unrelated parts of the body.
Pinched Nerves Common Areas
Pinched nerves can occur throughout the body. The most common locations include the spine, specifically the neck and lower back along with the hand in a common condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Compressed Nerve Symptoms
The untoward pressure can disrupt the nerve’s function, causing the following symptoms of a pinched nerve:
- Muscle weakness in the affected area
- Aching, sharp or burning pain that radiates to the surrounding areas.
- Tingling or pins and needles
- Numbness and/or decreased sensation in the nerve target area.
How Do You Treat a Pinched Nerve?
Treatment for a compressed nerve ranges from conservative treatment to surgery. These practices can include the following:
- Following a nutritious diet and exercising
- Practicing good posture
- Avoiding tobacco use
- Physical therapy
- Hot and cold therapy
In many cases, the patient may treat a pinched nerve with rest and ice. If the pinched nerve is in the arm, either at the elbow causing cubital tunnel syndrome or in the hand as carpal tunnel syndrome, the doctor may recommend a brace to limit the amount of movement around the nerve. The brace also prevents the patient from movements that may further compress or pinch the affected nerve.
The doctor may prescribe medications ranging from anti-inflammatories to nerve medications such as Lyrica or Neurontin. If the pinched nerve is in the areas around the back or neck, the doctor may recommend physical therapy to assist in strengthening the muscles.
When Would I Need Surgery For a Pinched Nerve?
Patients with compressed nerves from pressure on either the nerve roots or the spinal canal could be suffering from stenosis. The patient could be recommended to undergo a series of epidural injections in which a licensed medical provider places steroid medications near the area where the nerves are compressed or irritated.
If the condition fails to improve with conservative measures, the patient could benefit from surgery. These could range from a simple procedure to open space for the nerves or spinal nerves to potentially involving a fusion if too much of the disc or facet joint is needed to be resected to properly free up the pinched nerve.