What is a pinched nerve? A pinched nerve occurs when a nerve in the body is compressed by surrounding tissues. A nerve can be compressed by ligaments, tendons, muscles, cartilage or bone. The pressure disrupts the nerve’s normal functioning and leads to shooting pain, numbness, tingling, burning, stiffness and weakness in different areas of the body.  

 

A pinched nerve can develop anywhere in the body, but most originate in the neck, mid/low back, and wrist.   

 

  • A pinched nerve in the cervical spine causes pain and symptoms in the neck, shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers.
  • A pinched nerve in the lumbar spine causes sciatica — one-sided nerve pain, weakness, and numbness that radiates from the low back to the buttock, thigh, calf, and foot. 
  • A pinched nerve in the wrist causes carpal tunnel syndrome — nerve pain, weakness, and numbness in the wrist, hand and fingers.  

 

Compressed nerves can be very painful, but most cases are entirely treatable. Many people fully recover normal nerve functioning with non-surgical measures. Keep reading to learn more about your treatment options for a pinched nerve. 

What Causes a Pinched Nerve?

There are several causes that lead to a pinched nerve. In the spine, pinched nerves are commonly caused by a bone spur, bulging disc, or herniated disc pressing against nearby spinal nerves. Repetitive activities, traumatic accidents (falls, car accidents, sports accidents), obesity, pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes are other factors that can cause pressure, inflammation and swelling that leads to compressed nerves.  

Is a Pinched Nerve Treatable?

Most cases of pinched nerves are treatable with a combination of at-home and medical treatments. Your doctor will prescribe one or more of the following: 

 

  • Ice and heat. Applying ice packs can help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation around an irritated nerve root. Applying heat packs can help soothe tense, tight muscles and tendons affected by the compressed nerve. 

 

  • Rest. Time and rest may be all you need to resolve a pinched nerve. Avoid activities that aggravate the irritated nerve or cause compression. 

 

  • Immobilizing devices. Some cases may require immobilization while the damaged nerve heals. A splint, brace or collar prevents motion of the compressed nerve. Splints are commonly used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome because the wrists flex and extend while you sleep.  

 

  • Medications. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories (like ibuprofen or naproxen) can help relieve acute nerve pain. 

 

  • Corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory medications that can reduce inflammation, pain and swelling around compressed nerve roots. You can receive oral steroids or steroid injections directly into the affected area. 

 

  • Physical therapy. A physical therapist can show you stretches and exercises that relieve nerve pain and pressure. 

 

The average recovery period is 4-6 weeks for the damaged nerve to heal completely. See your doctor if you continue to have symptoms like pain, weakness, or numbness that stay the same or worsen after trying non-surgical treatments. Without effective treatment, a pinched nerve can lead to chronic pain and permanent nerve damage. 

 

If non-surgical treatments aren’t effective, surgery may be the next step. Decompression surgeries aim to remove pressure from the compressed nerve. Spine decompression and carpal tunnel release are two of the most common types of surgery performed on pinched nerves.

 

  • Spinal decompression. Spinal decompression procedures remove bone spurs, pieces of bone, soft tissues or a herniated disc that’s pressing on a spinal nerve. The type of decompression procedure varies depending on the exact cause and location of the pinched nerve. 

 

  • Carpal tunnel release. A carpal tunnel release involves cutting the carpal ligament to enlarge the carpal tunnel and allow nerves to move freely through the space. 

 

Today, many decompression procedures can be performed as minimally invasive surgery. Minimally invasive procedures require much smaller incisions and cause less damage to surrounding soft tissues. Less invasive surgeries also have faster rehabilitation and recovery periods. 

Tips for Prevention

There are several measures you can take at home to reduce your risk of developing a pinched nerve. 

 

  • Practice good posture for sitting, standing, and walking
  • Don’t sit or lie in one position for too long (like sitting with your legs crossed)
  • Exercise regularly to maintain strength, flexibility and good blood circulation
  • Take frequent breaks while performing repetitive motions (like typing or swinging a tennis racket)
  • Maintain a healthy, stable weight

Stop Living With Nerve Pain: Call Integrity Spine and Orthopedics Today

Whether you’re suffering from an acute injury or chronic pain, Integrity Spine and Orthopedics has the orthopedic care, pain management, sports medicine, and minimally invasive surgery services to help you to get back on your feet and back to doing the activities you love.

Call us today or reach out online to schedule your first appointment in our Jacksonville, FL clinic.

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