The nervous system is designed to send signals throughout the body, letting you know how to react or not react to certain stimuli. The most common example of this is pain, but sometimes, it’s not something external that is causing pain with your nerves, but something related to the nerve itself. One example of this is a pinched nerve. Causes for this phenomenon can vary, and potential consequences and solutions can differ as well. Knowing your potential options can make the difference between a minor pain and a major issue.
What Is A Pinched Nerve?
A pinched nerve occurs whenever “compression” or pressure, occurs on said nerve. What exactly leads to a pinched nerve varies, but potential causes include repetitive motions, for example, if you have a physical labor job with little variety in duties. Another potential cause is being held in a position for long periods of time, such as bending your elbows by you sleep. While technically, any nerve can become a pinched nerve, the most vulnerable spots are where nerves are pressed between tissues. These include ligaments, tendons and bones. Sometimes pinched nerves result from injuries or trauma. For example, when a herniated disc in the neck occurs, it can cause unyielding pressure on nerves.
Symptoms are most commonly felt in the elbow, wrist, hand, and fingers, manifesting as pain or discomfort. Several well-known conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tennis elbow can stem from pinched nerves. Long-term effects could include swelling, extra pressure, and scarring. Scarring will interfere with the effectiveness in your nerves in the future, and is something to be avoided at all costs.
Knowing Your Options
Surgery can help fix your pinched nerve, but in general, may be a bit of overkill. Many recommend trying to avoid this, and utilizing non-invasive treatment methods to try and help before you decide to take this route. Surgery should only be a first option if you are at risk of permanent nerve damage. If the following techniques show no results after several weeks or months of usage, it may be worth considering as well.Surgery can help fix your pinched nerve, but in general, may be a bit of overkill. Many recommend trying to avoid this, and utilizing non-invasive treatment methods to try and help before you decide to take this route. Surgery should only be a first option if you are at risk of permanent nerve damage. If the following techniques show no results after several weeks or months of usage, it may be worth considering as well.
In some cases, simply laying off the affected area could be enough to relieve your pinched nerve. However, keep track of your symptoms. If you rest for too long, you may actually harm your healing process. If resting for a day or two doesn’t provide any change, you may want to see your doctor for another possible solution.
2. Ice & Heat Therapy
If your symptoms include inflammation, redness, warmth, and tenderness, icing things down may help. Wrap some ice in a towel and hold it against the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes for around 2 or 3 times a day. You can apply heat on a similar basis a few days after you first notice your pinched nerve as well. A heating pat, hot water bottle, or warm bath will do the trick.
3. Over-the-Counter Medication
If inflammation is the main culprit behind your pinched nerve, you may be able to take some over the counter meds to lower it and free your compressed nerve. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen, are easy to find. In some cases, they may serve as a complement to other treatments.
4. Prescription Medication
On top of the medications we mentioned before, a doctor may offer several other options if your case is more severe. These can range from other NSAIDs to corticosteroid injections, generally administered by mouth or injection. In extreme cases, narcotic painkillers may be used. This generally only happens if pinched nerve pain is debilitating.
5. Physical Therapy
Pinched nerves in the neck or back are generally accompanied by physical therapy. A physical therapy regimen will generally comprise of exercises that strengthen and stretch the muscles in the affected area to relieve pressure on the affected nerve. They may also suggest different ways to go about your daily activities to reduce the chance of things happening again.
6. Spinal Decompression
This technique is generally reserved for pinched sciatic nerves. Spinal decompression slowly stretches and realigns the spine for long-term pain relief. Once everything is aligned, it will release the pinched nerve.
7. Trigger Point Injections
A pinched nerve’s location doesn’t always indicate where the original issue is. For example, a bulging or herniated spinal disc could cause irritation in the nerves leading down your arm, and symptoms will manifest in your hands. Trigger point infections promote healing in muscles and joints that could cause pinched nerves.
Splints aren’t applicable to all pinched nerve cases, but they are used to limit movement when it could potentially exacerbate your discomfort. For carpal tunnel syndrome, this is likely one of the first things you will see.
9. Exercise Regimen
Along with direct treatments that help deal with nerves that are already pinched, there are several techniques that you can employ in order to lower chances of pinched nerves in the future. One of the best things you can do is start implementing workouts for areas that commonly get pinched nerves. As a rule of thumb, stretch short and tight muscles and then exercising the weak ones. Not only do stretches release endorphins that help with pain relief, but they also start relieving the stress pressure puts on a nerve.
10. Dieting (no, really!)
To be clear, this statement isn’t saying that you can eat to get rid of a pinched nerve. However, certain dietary choices can complement some of the other things on this list. This includes adding more collagen to your diet, as it helps repair connective tissue and adds cushion between your joints. Bone broth is one of the best sources, along with other healthy nutrients like glucosamine, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid and amino acids. Herbs like garlic, turmeric, and ginger also help cut down on inflammation.If you are having a bit of trouble deciding what procedure is the best match for you, the best place to start is with your medical professional of choice. Industry sources like the Back Pain Centers of America are useful for general information to guide your decision, but your doctor or specialist knows you. On top of knowing what is best for your body and lifestyle, they may be able to guide you if your pinched nerve can’t be fixed through these means, and you need to go invasive. Whatever your choice, being informed is the best first step you can take.