A pinched nerve can be debilitating and painful and may affect your hands, arms, back, ankles, feet, legs, and hips. Anything that puts pressure on your nerves can cause a pinched nerve as it interrupts its ability to function properly.
It can occur anywhere on your body and the severity of your condition may vary depending on the cause of damage. Although a pinched nerve responds well to conservative treatment, conditions that get worse over time may require surgical treatment. A pinched nerve causes sciatica symptoms and carpal tunnel syndrome. This article gives an in-depth view of pinched nerve including its causes, symptoms, treatment, and home remedies for improving a compressed nerve.
What Does a Pinched Nerve Entail?
A pinched nerve occurs when the surrounding tissues such as bones, muscles, tendons, and cartilage apply too much pressure on a nerve. The nerve’s function is disrupted by the amount of pressure applied causing pain, numbness or weakness in the affected area. For instance, a pinched nerve in your wrist can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, which is characterized by pain and a feeling of numbness in your hand and fingers.
Likewise, a herniated or bulging disc on your spine can put a lot of pressure on the nerve root causing a radiating pain throughout your leg. Nerves send important messages from your brain and spinal cord to your entire body. A pinched nerve will send warning signals such as pain, and the damage caused may range from mild to severe. You are more likely to get quick relief the earlier you diagnose and treat the damage caused by a pinched nerve.
Causes and Symptoms of Pinched Nerve
Some of the primary causes of pinched nerve include wrong body posture, bulging discs, weight gain, and repetitive activities that increase swelling around certain nerves. A pinched nerve is caused by anything that exerts pressure around a nerve. Some of the common symptoms of a compressed nerve include sciatica, muscle spasms, weakness, sharp pain, and loss of reflexes. This condition either can be caused by a traumatic injury or may appear out of nowhere. Degenerative changes that come with old age can also cause a pinched nerve when the spinal discs start to bulge, lose height and become stiffer due to a decrease in water content.
Diagnosis of a Pinched Nerve
A doctor will conduct a physical examination after checking your medical history and current symptoms. They will examine the affected area for loss of sensation, muscle weakness or changes in reflexes. Imaging tests such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans may be used to identify the source of the pinched nerve.
Treatment of a compressed or pinched nerve may vary depending on the severity of your condition. Patients may require evaluation and treatment in cases where their condition does not improve with rest and avoiding tasks that aggravate their pain. The initial treatment for pinched nerve includes medications, physical therapy, steroid injections, and using assistive devices such as a soft cervical collar.
Narcotics are usually reserved for patients whose symptoms cannot be relieved by other treatment options, and it is only prescribed for a limited time. If your condition does not improve with non-surgical treatment, your doctor may recommend surgery as the last treatment option for your pinched nerve. A surgical procedure may vary depending on the location of the compressed nerve and the symptoms you are experiencing.
Home Remedies for Pinched Nerve
Your doctor may recommend a combination of medication with lifestyle modifications to help improve the symptoms of pinched nerve. Some of the home-based remedies include having enough rest, frequent movement, adjusting your posture and sleeping position, and using ice or heat to ease pain and muscle spasms. It is important to have enough rest and avoid activities that may aggravate your symptoms. Regular exercises relieve your symptoms and prevent the onset of nerve pain.
When to See a Doctor
It is necessary to seek immediate medical attention when your symptoms persist after several attempts of treating the condition at home. You also need to visit a doctor when the symptoms of your compressed nerve interfere with your daily life as you may experience general weakness, numbness, pain, or inability to move a part of your body.
Many treatments can be used to relieve the symptoms of a pinched nerve. It is advisable to try baseline approaches before advancing to more invasive treatment. The first line of treatment for a pinched nerve includes having enough rest, taking medication, and performing stretching exercises that allow you to stay active. It is important to seek immediate medical help for severe pain or persistent symptoms caused by a pinched nerve.