Nearly 300,000 Americans suffer from some form of pinched nerve every year, with the problem favoring those over 50. Since muscles control touch, movement and automatic functions, signal interruptions due to nerve compression can have far-reaching effects on your health.
When you experience the warning signs, it’s time to visit a pinched nerve specialist like our team at Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center. We can diagnose and treat your nerve compression with a range of options starting with conservative methods and extending to surgical options for those rare cases where other treatments fail. As with many conditions, early treatment gives the best chance for fast recovery, so learn to recognize these signs of pinched nerves before they become a big issue.
What causes pinched nerves?
The simple explanation for a pinched nerve is that surrounding tissue puts too much pressure on a nerve, causing it to react in an abnormal way. That tissue may be muscle, tendon, bone, ligament, cartilage, or other soft tissue, such as the displacement from a herniated spinal disc.
Something as simple as temporary inflammation can compress a nerve, or calcium growths (bone spurs) can reduce the size of the spaces through which a nerve passes. Minor nerve compression may resolve on its own, but chronic compression could result in permanent nerve damage.
Nerve compression can result from:
- Physical injury
- Repetitive motion stress from work, sports, or hobbies
- Various forms of arthritis and their side effects
- Osteoporosis and related bone compression
- Genetic conditions that lead to smaller than normal nerve passageways
Pinched nerves can affect you virtually anywhere on your body, either at the site of the nerve compression or anywhere along the nerve’s path. Nerve compression from a herniated disc can, for example, trigger symptoms in your arms or legs, depending on where the herniation is located.
The warning signs of a pinched nerve
Specific symptoms of pinched nerves depend on where the nerve compression occurs. While pain is usually your first indication that something is wrong, it’s possible that you’ll experience other symptoms without pain. Nerves transmit sensations, signals for motor functions, and autonomic system instructions.
Pain, tingling or numbness occur when pinching affects sensory nerves. This can be direct or referred, meaning that your symptoms occur at the site of compression or somewhere along the nerve’s path, downstream from the compression. In some cases, a single compression can cause multiple symptoms.
For example, a pinched nerve in your lower back can create pain at the site of the nerve compression while also causing numbness or tingling along the path of the nerve. This is common with pinched sciatic nerves.
Motor nerve compression can create weakness or movement problems when signals between muscles and brain are affected. You may not be able to form a tight fist when you have carpal tunnel syndrome, or when you have a herniated disk in your neck, affecting pathways in your arms.
Though it’s rare, nerve compression could create issues with autonomic systems, functions of your body that take place automatically. Bladder or bowel issues could result from lower back nerve compression.
Even though most cases of pinched nerves resolve themselves within a few weeks, there can be complex or ongoing issues that require medical treatment. Call Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center at 602-536-5019 to arrange an exam at the earliest sign of nerve compression.