Have you been pinched in the skin? Does it hurt? Yes, of course. Now imagine someone or something pinching your nerve, what do you think will happen?
What are the Nerves?
The nerves are neurons (nerve cells) bundled together. The nerve cell or neurons are the functional unit of the nervous system. It has many features and has the ability to initiate and conduct a nerve impulse. The nerve impulse generated by these nerve cells travels to the spinal cord and the brain. They are responsible for sensory and motor responses. Different nerves send different messages. They serve as the communicating channels so that the organs can work together in a coordinated harmonious manner.
So, What is a Pinched Nerve?
Are the nerves really pinched? Actually, there is a lot of debate over the term “pinched” nerve. Pinched nerve is a common term used to describe what occurs during nerve compression.
A compressed nerve occurs when there is too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues, like muscles, bones, cartilages, or tendons. This pressure disrupts and irritates the nerve’s function, resulting to a pinched nerve’s symptoms: pain, tingling, numbness or weakness.
How Do Nerves Get “Pinched?
These are the factors that can cause a pinched nerve:
An accident or bad fall can actually cause a compression of the nerves. Trauma can result into a misalignment or subluxation of the spine or bones, which then results into a nerve impingement.
Constant bending or twisting and poor posture can also put pressure and irritate the nerves. Pinched nerve may occur after weeks or months of constant stress of physical origin.
Degenerative Changes in the Body
As the vertebral discs in the spinal column age, they begin to bulge, lose water content, dry out and become stiffer. When stiffness and shape changes occurs, the vertebrae move closer together and the body reacts by forming more bone —called “bone spurs” to strengthen the affected disc. These bone spurs worsen the stiffening and narrows the canal or small openings on the spinal column where the nerve roots are. This narrowing will eventually lead to a “pinched nerve”.
Not All “Pinched Nerves” Hurt
Some people with compressed nerves don’t feel pain. Pain is only one of the symptoms of a pinched nerve. Others feel numbness, or tingling sensation. Why is that? Remember when we talked about the structure and the functions of nerves? Certain nerves have different kinds of function. Some are for mobility and others are for sensory. These sensory nerves carry pain messages. If nerves are not severely damaged, pain might not be felt. Some people even don’t know that they have impinged/compressed nerves.
Pinched Nerve Treatment
It is important to note that some patients get better over time. For some patients, the pain goes away relatively in days or weeks. Others take longer, and there are also cases where specific treatments are needed.
Some exercises can help relieve pain, improve one’s range of motion, as well as strengthen the muscles. They may not only relieve pain or heal the damaged nerve, but they also could help prevent the nerve injury from occurring again.
In some cases, medications can help improve the pinched nerve symptoms. This includes Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen; Oral Corticosteroids that help reduce swelling or inflammation; Steroid injections that lessen the swelling for nerve recovery; and Narcotics prescribed for patients with severe pain which is not relieved by other options.
Acupuncture is the process of inserting small needles into specific points known as “meridians” of the body. These points are believed to correspond to different parts of the body, including the nervous system. Some people believe that acupuncture promotes healing. And although there is an ongoing debate about acupuncture, many patients with pinched nerves can experience pain relief after receiving this non-surgical treatment.
If nonsurgical treatments do not reduce symptoms or treat the pinched nerve, surgery may be needed. There are different kinds of surgical procedures available. The specific surgical procedure depends on a lot of factors, such as the location of nerve compression, the intensity of the pain, and the symptoms.
Contact Pegasus Pain Management to learn about your options.
- Staff, M. C. (2016). Pinched nerve definition. Mayoclinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pinched-nerve/basics/definition/con-20029601
- Retrieved October 1, 2016, from http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/PDFs/A00332.pdf