Many of us have probably thought we had a pinched nerve at one time or another. There are various problems that can mimic the symptoms, like a muscle spasm or peripheral neuropathy, but a pinched nerve is what it sounds like—when something impinges on a nearby nerve. The pressure can come from bone, muscle, tendon, ligament or cartilage.
Pinched nerves can come on suddenly or gradually, depending upon the cause. People over 30 are more likely to get pinched nerves due to the degeneration of discs between the vertebrae from dehydration and wear and tear over time.
Symptoms of Pinched Nerves
When a nerve is compressed, it can’t function as it should, and that’s when you may feel symptoms, including:
- Sharp, aching or burning pain in the shoulder or back
- Pain that radiates outward, down your arm or leg
- Tingling or “pins and needles”
- Muscle weakness
- Pain that gets worse when you sit, cough or turn your head
Causes of Pinched Nerves
Pinched nerves can result from injury, arthritis, a herniated (slipped) disk, bone spurs or repetitive motion. They most commonly occur in your lower back (the lumbar region) and can result in buttock and/or leg pain. A pinched nerve in your neck (cervical spine) can cause shoulder or arm pain, numbness or tingling.
Although we see more instances of pinched nerves in the lower back and neck, just about any nerve can become pinched. For example, carpal tunnel syndrome, the common complaint often caused by repetitive motion such as using a keyboard or keypad, is a pinched median nerve in your wrist. It can cause numbness and pain in your fingers and hand.
Treatment for Pinched Nerves
If you think you may have a pinched nerve, rest the injured area, try ice for 20 minutes at a time, and schedule an appointment with your chiropractor. Most pinched nerves can return to normal function with proper treatment. Still, it’s not one of those ailments that you want to push through. If the source of the nerve compression isn’t alleviated, the pain may not go away and the nerve could potentially become permanently damaged.
Chiropractors offer natural treatments for pinched nerves. Chiropractic adjustments can help relieve the pressure on the nerves by identifying and addressing the source of the problem. A chiropractor can also recommend safe stretches and at-home exercises that can help relieve the pain and allow healing. These treatments avoid the potential side effects of typical medical treatments such as prescription pain medication, NSAIDS, steroid injections or surgery.
If you’d like to reduce the chance of getting a pinched nerve in the first place, you can do the following:
- Stay physically fit.
- Practice good posture.
- If you sit for long periods at work, try to take breaks and get up and move around.
- If you are overweight, losing the extra pounds can help alleviate added stress and pressure put on your spine and joints.
Pinched nerves are bothersome, but they are not usually serious. However, call your healthcare provider immediately or go to the emergency room if you have:
- Sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis in the extremities that does not go away
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Loss of sensation in the genital area
These could be signs of a condition that is more serious than a pinched nerve and that needs medical treatment right away. However, pinched nerves can be treated by a chiropractor, who will help your body heal with conservative treatments.