Pinched Nerve: What is it?

November 12, 2012

Pinched Nerve: What is it?

Ever had that sharp pain down your back or a constant feeling of your foot falling asleep? If this becomes a reoccurring problem, you may have a pinched nerve.

A pinched nerve is a generalized term to indicate injury or damage to a cluster of nerves or a specific nerve anywhere within the body. They are normally on-the-job injuries but can be the result of any type of movement. Nerves can be damaged by stretching, compression, or constriction of the body. While about 40% of people experience sciatic nerve pain in the lower back, nerves in the neck and wrist are also commonly affected. The location of the upset nerve will determine what type of pain a person feels as well as which muscles may have functional problems.

Symptoms of Pinched Nerves

Recognizing a pinched nerve is sometimes a difficult matter, especially if it has been caused by an injury. Many individuals do not realize that something is wrong unless the symptoms become difficult to handle. Some of the most common signs of this condition include:

  • Numbness

  • Radiating pain

  • Burning Sensations

  • “Pins and needles” in the area

  • Extremities randomly “fall asleep”

  • Stiffness

  • Muscle weakness along the nerve path

Catching this condition early is important to prevent further damage. Not only will the symptoms continue to get worse as the damage increases, but they can vary greatly depending on the location of the nerve.

Possible Complications

Doctors normally treat people suffering from an inflamed or trapped sciatic nerve. This is the nerve near the lower back and can result in pain and numbness through the back and legs. Depending on the severity of the situation, people can be bedridden or very limited in their capability to move about throughout the day. Because the nerves are responsible for the transmission of information from the body to the brain, damaged nerve receptors can have very negative results such as:

  • Carpel tunnel syndrome from pinched nerves in the hands and wrists

  • Tennis elbow from a compressed nerve at the elbow

  • Peripheral neuropathy which can result from a number of nerves located throughout the body

As with any other type of injury, it is possible to make things worse if not treated correctly. Avoid unnecessary complications by seeking medical advice.

Treatment Options

Having to deal with a pinched nerve can be a painful and aggravating process. In many cases, the inflammation around the nerve will finally decrease and the body will return to its natural state. Many people end up going to the doctor because the pain begins to interfere with activities of daily living. Resting the afflicted area is the most recommended treatment. As long as the area is kept relaxed and not over used, the pain should eventually subside. Prescription medications such as corticosteroids can also be taken in order to help keep the pain and swelling in check. While pinched nerve cases are normally not very severe, surgery may be needed. Depending on the extent of the damage, physical therapy, collars, and splints may be used. If pain becomes unbearable or lasts for an extended period of time, make sure to visit your doctor because it is possible for damage to be irreversible.


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