Pinched nerve is a condition in which the nerve is subjected to intense pressure applied by the surrounding bones or muscles or tendons affecting its normal function. Pinched nerve can cause intense pain, weakness and tingling sensation. A nerve can get pinched in any part of the body. The pain will be felt on the area where the nerve gets affected. In case if the nerve present in the lower spine is affected it could cause pain on your lower back. If the nerve of your wrist gets pinched it can cause numbness or intense pain on your fingers.
Often this condition can be resolved by conservative treatments. In rare cases surgery is done. Due to pinched nerve, discomfort or pain or numbness can be caused in the affected part due to increased pressure and irritation. The peripheral nerve may get damaged due to the continuous pressure exerted by the surrounding organs leading to pinched nerve.
Pinched nerve can cause sudden intense pain on the affected part, numbness or decrease in sensation (due to nerve damage), tingling sensation or “pins and needles” and muscle weakness on the area where the nerve gets affected.
When the nerve is compressed by the surrounding organs like bones, muscles or tendons to such an extent that it cannot perform its normal function, it can cause pinched nerve. Variety of factors can cause nerve compression. For example, herniated disk can cause pressure on the nerve root. Sometimes, bones or tendons can exert pressure on the nerves. If the carpal tunnel’s nerve is affected it can cause intense pain on the wrists.
Sudden injury, medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, sitting in poor posture for long duration and stress due to repeated activities, certain hobbies, and obesity can cause pressure on the nerve. If the nerve is compressed only for short time the pain would disappear once the pressure is released. But in some cases chronic pressure can cause serious nerve injury and permanent damage on the nerve.
Who are at risk?
People who are in the habit of sitting in poor posture, people with chronic problems like rheumatoid arthritis, bone spurs, and people with thyroid disease are prone to develop pinched nerve. Women have increased chance to get carpal tunnel syndrome since they have small sized carpel tunnels on their hands. Having herniated disk can exert pressure on the nerve roots causing pinched nerve. Pregnancy can increase your weight causing nerve compression.
Your doctor will complete the physical exam and listen to your symptoms. He may order for tests like nerve conduction to measure the electrical nerve impulses or electromyography to get clear picture about pinched nerve. If required, MRI or CT scan would be done on the affected area.
Complete rest is enough to resolve pain due to mild form of pinched nerve. You need to restrain from any type of physical activities so that nerve compression will get resolved on its own. If there is serious injury to the nerve your doctor will recommend wearing splints or braces on the affected area so that it cannot be moved. For people with carpal tunnel syndrome this method is highly effective to immobilize the wrist.
Physiotherapy like stretching of muscles can relieve the pressure on the nerve. You will be given instructions to modify certain daily activities to reduce the pain. NSAID medications like ibuprofen or naproxen can be taken to get immediate relief from nerve pain. For severe cases your doctor will prescribe corticosteroid oral pills or injections. Surgery is considered only for people who do not respond to the above methods of treatment. Unwanted pressure on the nerve will be removed during surgery.
Tips for Prevention :
- Always sit or sleep in good posture.
- Do regular exercise to gain flexibility on muscles and bones.
- Do not involve in repeated sports activities without any breaks.
In most of the cases, pinched nerve will get resolved within few days. In rare cases nerve injury can cause permanent damage leading to numbness on the affected area.