What Is A Pinched Nerve And How To Treat It?

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Our bodies are highly complex and is able to send messages to our brains through a large network of nerves that can sometimes get compressed, resulting in what’s called a pinched nerve.

The myelin sheath, which is a protective coating around the nerve can also get compressed, causing similar symptoms such as numbness and pain.

When the function of our nerves are disrupted, they will start to send warning signals in the form of numbness or pain. identifying these warning signals is important in order to avoid permanent nerve damage.

What Causes A Pinched Nerve?

A pinched nerve is caused when there is to much pressure applied to a Peripheral nerve or a set of nerves, anywhere in your body.

Inflammation and damage can result in a pinched nerve, often caused by improper posture,  repetitive movement, or frequently holding a position for long periods of time.

Common causes of a pinched nerve include:

  • Keeping knees, or elbows bent while sleeping
  • Fractures
  • Neck or back injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Often times, medical conditions including type 1 or type 2 diabetes, may cause pinched nerves as a result of damage caused by high glucose levels in the blood.

Obesity and being overweight can lead to joint problems, which causes less mobility where bones connect, therefore creating more pressure on the nerves.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Pinched Nerve?

Pinched nerves can occur anywhere throughout the large network of nerves that go along your body, and symptoms vary, depending on location and injury.

Pinched nerve symptoms may include:

  • Frequent Numbness or tingling of hands or feet (falling asleep sensation)
  • Muscles feeling weak in a targeted area
  • Burning sensations
  • Sharp Pain Within Target Area
  • Tingling sensation

Note, that symptoms of a pinched nerve can often occur at different locations than the affected area. This is because of the delay in signal responses that travel throughout the body.

For example, you may feel symptoms in your left shoulder, while the actual affected area may is in your neck.

Symptoms may also be more evident when sleeping, or when you are at a complete  relaxed state, where there is little to no movement.

How Do I Treat A Pinched Nerve?

In severe cases, there is no way to reverse a pinched nerve. There are natural ways to reduce the pinched nerve symptoms that you experience regularly, along with the help of treatments that can be determined by a doctor.

Natural Ways To Treat A Pinched Nerve Yourself

Sleep And Rest More Often

Our bodies repair themselves when they are asleep, therefore allowing your body to achieve a proper deep sleep cycle can help damaged nerves heal properly.

In less severe cases, allowing your body to rest can often allow the pinched nerve to heal on its own, without any kind of treatment.

Making sure you sleep in a position that allows the affected nerve area to be relaxed, stretched, and free of pressure is important in order to allow proper circulation of blood flow.

Change Your Posture

Improper posture may be causing the pressure that causes the nerve to compress. Any kind of stress on the body that is extensive for long periods of time, may worsen the condition.

Like sleep, proper posture can allow necessary blood circulation throughout the body while relaxing the muscles, allowing the target area to heal.

Stretching

Light stretching can help relieve any tension and pressure where the area is affected. With this in mind, it is important that you don’t over do it, as this can strain the pinched nerve further, as well as worsen the condition.

Elevate Your Legs

Elevating your legs when a pinched nerve is located in the back can be a good way to relieve pain. Having your legs in a more elevated position while sitting or laying down, will help stretch your back muscles, and also enable proper blood flow throughout the body.

Massage Therapy

Allowing the muscle and nerve area to relax, can help relieve symptoms. Make sure that the pressure applied to the area is kept at a minimum, and avoid deep massages, or any other extreme therapy practices, as this can worsen the condition.

Hot and Cold Packs

Applying hot or cold packs 2- 3 times daily, can help reduce inflammation while relaxing the muscles around the area.

Ice Packs can be applied on the target area as well. But it is recommended that you do this for no more than 15-20 minutes at a time.

As for hot packs, these can be placed on the target area for 30 – 45 minutes at a time, and can help increase blood flow in the affected area.

Diet and Exercise

Low strenuous activities such as walking, or biking can help with blood circulation and weight loss. Losing extra weight can help reduce the amount of pressure that is applied to the nerves, and can help free up mobility in the joints.

Treatment With The Help Of A Professional

The type of Treatment for a pinched nerve can depend on several factors including, location, symptoms, severity of damage, and specific causing factors.

Treatment options can include:

Medication

Prescription medication such as corticosteroids may be used to decrease inflammation around the pinched nerve. This can be taken orally, or as a injection, depending on the quantity and amount of inflammation that is present.

Pain medication, including narcotics can also help with severe symptoms such as burning or sharp pains. For less severe pain symptoms, pain relief medication such as ibuprofen can be issued to help manage pain.

Physical Therapy:

Your doctor may recommend for you to see a physical or physiotherapist, to help correct posture, and manage pain by recommending different mobility practices.

Supporting Devices:

Depending on the location of the affected nerve area, devices such as splints can be used to reduce motion, helping to reduce inflammation.

Surgery:

If for whatever reason a pinched nerve does not improve over time, surgery may be a last resort. During Peripheral nerve surgery, the pressure is often reduced by removing excess tissue around the nerves, or relocating it so that it may pass through where the amount of compression or tension is minimal.

How Long Does A Pinched Nerve Usually Last?

It is difficult to determine how long a pinched nerve may last for.

How long symptoms will last depends on where the affected area is located, and what treatment is implemented. In many cases, if treatment is given early in reducing inflammation and pressure, the target area may take between 1-10 days to heal.

Areas where there is constant movement in the knees, lower back, elbows, wrists, and neck, may prolong the time that a pinched nerve goes away.

Other areas such that are put under less stress such as the upper back, sides, and shoulders, may heal much quicker.

If the condition continues or worsens, it is important to see a doctor immediately.

What Happens A Pinched Nerve Is Left Untreated?

If the pinched nerve is untreated after going beyond 1-10 days without seeing any improvements, there is a high risk of permanent damage that can be made which can be often irreversible.

Muscle Atrophy

Losing strength and muscle weakness can be a result of untreated nerve damage, and can limit the mobility and movement of a person, this is called Muscle Atrophy.

You Can Become Dependant On Medication

A dependency for over the counter painkillers can also be a result of not treating pinched nerves, due to the amount of discomfort and pain that persists.

When To Visit A Doctor

Although there are several ways to treat and cure a pinched nerve on your own, neglecting the problem as it worsens can cause permanent damage, if untreated.

Below is a list of reasons for when you should see the doctor right away.

  • If the pain persists – If  pain or any symptoms continue or get worse for more than 3-5 days
  • Loss Of bladder or Bowel control – A pinched nerve in the spine can cause a loss of control of both the Bladder or intestine function, and requires attention immediately.
  • Loss Of Sensation – If you lose feeling in the hands, feet, neck or shoulders, it can be a clear sign of nerve damage or other conditions such as stroke or other forms of heart disease.
  • Instant Loss Of Strength – If you experience sudden weakness where there is difficulty carrying your own weight on a single leg, seek medical attention as soon as possible.