“Pinched nerve” is the common description of what’s medically known as a compressed nerve. Normally functioning nerves have tunnels, passageways, and spaces throughout your body in which to do their work even as you move normally through the day. Surrounding tissue doesn’t typically place unusual pressure on nerves, but injuries and inflammation can change this, upsetting a nerve’s regular function.
Compressed nerves can create weakness, pain, or other sensations, depending on how and where the nerve becomes compressed. Most cases respond to rest and home care, but when you can’t find relief on your own, make an appointment with Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center. In extreme cases, some pinched nerves need surgical attention to stop the compression.
Common signs of compressed nerves
Most people know the pins and needles sensation of a hand or foot “falling asleep.” Once you change positions and shake out the limb, normal sensation returns, and moments later you can forget all about it. When you have a more serious compressed nerve though, you can’t simply shake it off.
The sensation and effects of nerve compression are complex and varied. When a nerve root gets compressed, for example, you may have symptoms along the nerve’s length, and not at the spot where the compression actually occurs. Other effects that may reveal nerve compression include:
- Pain that can be aching, burning, or sharp and that seems to radiate outward
- Weakness or localized loss of strength
- Areas of reduced sensation or numbness
- Paresthesia, the pins-and-needles sensation, that doesn’t pass
Often, your pinched nerve symptoms may become worse overnight, as you sleep.
Causes of nerve compression
There are some conditions that some people may not know originate from compressed nerves. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common problem for people who use their hands to perform repetitive work. The symptoms of CTS result from pressure on the median nerve through a tissue structure called the carpal tunnel. Similarly, herniated disks in the spine cause trouble only when the soft inner tissue of the disk bulges out and irritates nearby nerves. It’s possible to suffer a herniated disk and heal without any pain, if no nerves are disturbed.
Coping with a pinched nerve
Most cases of nerve compression heal spontaneously if you rest and avoid the activity or motion that irritated the nerve in the first place. However, any persistent pain that interferes with your normal routine is a candidate for medical examination. Chronic pinched nerves can suffer damage that continues to create pain even after the original problem is gone. By all means, try these home remedies, but visit Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center if you don’t feel relief in a week or two.
- Rest and sleep: when you’re injured, you need time to heal, and resting, including extra sleep, reduces recovery time
- Treat inflammation: use over the counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen and/or ice packs to reduce swelling and ease pain
- Add motion: increasing the amount you walk often eases pinched nerve symptoms, as does regular stretching if you work long hours in one position
- Stretching exercises: gentle stretching, such as yoga, can help your body reset itself
Contact any of the three locations of Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center in Phoenix or Sun City West if your pinched nerve doesn’t respond to home care. Call the most convenient office directly or request an appointment online. There’s no reason to cope with the pain of pinched nerves.