Life is short enough without having it diminished by severe or debilitating pain. Pain can rob you of making memories, spending quality time with your family, learning knew hobbies, or enjoying life in general. Whether the pain is chronic or shooting, the source of it may be a pinched nerve, something that can be easily treated.
Nerves run throughout the entire body, communicating sensations to the brain and delivering messages from the brain. The body is contains two types of nerves: those that run through the spinal column to the brain (the central nervous system) and those that exit the spine and run to the rest of the body (the peripheral nervous system). When bones or tissue surrounding a nerve place pressure upon it, the result is a “pinched nerve.”
Symptoms of Pinched Nerves
Because each nerve is connected to a different area of the body and has a specific function, Mayo Clinic states that the symptoms of a pinched nerve can vary
- Sufferers may experience numbness in the affected limb or area the nerve controls or a decrease in sensation.
- The opposite may also be true with individuals feeling a sharp burning or aching pain that radiates from the nerve outward.
- Some may experience what seems to be the area “falling asleep” or a tingling, pins and needles sensation.
- A pinched nerve can even result in muscle weakness in the affected area.
Causes of Pinched Nerves
Pinched nerves are no respecter of people’s age or gender; but as individuals age, their chances of having a pinched nerve increase. Regardless of the age, the compression of the nerve is often due to damage to the vertebrae and disks.
- A herniated disk occurs when the covering for the gelatinous fluid weakens causing some of the fluid to leak out. The disk then compresses and has the possibility of pinching a nerve.
- Bones spurs form along a joint’s or vertebrae’s edge and are bony projections. Although bone spurs do not have to create a problem, they can be the source of nerve pain when located on vertebrae or in the shoulders.
- Swollen muscles or tendons from repetitive motions or damage can also press on the nerves causing pain. Swollen carpal tendons are often the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Thickened or degenerated ligaments from Rheumatoid arthritis, sports injuries, or obesity can also put unwanted pressure on nerves, pinching them.
If a doctor suspects a pinched nerve is at the root of your discomfort, the first thing that will be done is a thorough physical exam. In order to obtain a definitive diagnosis, some type of imaging will be ordered.
- Know Your Back.org states that the most definitive test is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Because MRIs use magnets in creating the picture, people who have pacemakers or other medical devices may not be able to have them done.
- X-rays and computed tomography (CT) work well for showing bone structure but poorly display soft tissues. Some doctors may order a CT scan with a dye contrast so that the nerves will stand out.
- Rather than using imaging, some doctors may choose to use an electrodiagnostic study (EMG/NCS) to locate the damaged nerve. EMG/NCS involves discharging small electrical impulses into needles that have been inserted into muscles. Response information is recorded. This test is useful for diagnosing problems with peripheral nerves.
Pinched Nerve Treatment Options
Once the doctor has a proper diagnosis, an individualized treatment plan can be developed. Doctors will begin with the least invasive approach and escalate from there.
- First, Cedar-Sinai recommends stopping the activities that are exacerbating the issue and causing pain until the issue is brought under control.
- Physical therapy designed to strengthen the surrounding muscles and increase flexibility and range-of-motion may take care of the issue without any further intervention.
- If needed, oral medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxants may be used. For extreme pain, doctors may choose to prescribe narcotics or use epidural glucocorticoid injections.
- For severe pain that does not respond to any other forms of treatment, surgery is sometimes the answer.
Pinched nerve pain that does not resolve itself can be debilitating. If you suspect that you or someone you love may be suffering from a pinched nerve, contact the specialists at Atlanta Brain and Spine Care. Their caring staff have the expertise to diagnose the problem and prescribe the proper treatment getting you back into enjoying life pain-free.