A pinched nerve is a common medical problem. It can range from being a slight nuisance to a debilitating condition.
Why a Pinched Nerve Happens
According to the Mayo Clinic, a pinched nerve happens when too much pressure — sometimes called compression — is placed on a nerve by the tissues surrounding it. These surrounding tissues can be bone, cartilage, muscles, or tendons.
When the pressure becomes too great, the nerve can become inflamed, preventing it from functioning properly. A nerve that is pinched for a short amount of time typically results in no permanent damage and a limited amount of pain. A nerve that is pinched for a lengthy amount of time, however, can result in permanent damage (such as loss of range of motion) and chronic pain.
The Causes of a Pinched Nerve
A pinched nerve can be caused by many things, including underlying conditions and injury. A few of the most common causes include disk herniation, a bone spur, osteoarthritis, or the thickening of surrounding ligaments. More uncommon causes of a pinched nerve may include a tumor, an infection, scoliosis, irritation or inflammation of the nerves (from trauma), and diabetes. Diabetes can hinder blood circulation and limit the amount of blood flowing to the spinal nerve. This can also result in inflammation.
In some instances, a pinched nerve can’t be prevented. However, there are certain lifestyle behaviors that can increase one’s risk of contracting a pinched nerve. These include poor posture, stress from a repetitive job, and injury from a hobby, exercise, or sport. Additionally, obesity can lead to compressed nerves.
The Treatments for a Pinched Nerve
The treatment plan for a pinched nerve typically depends on the severity of the condition. Treatment is generally given in one of the following ways:
When a pinched nerve is not severe, it may be able to recover on its own. Support braces are often used to limit the amount of movement around the nerve to accelerate this recovery. Support braces can also relieve the amount of pressure placed on the nerve.
Physical therapy may be used to heal a pinched nerve in instances where the condition is chronic. Physical rehab will help strengthen the muscles that surround the nerve, ultimately relieving the amount of pressure placed on the nerve.
Medication can be helpful in both relieving the pain of a pinched nerve as well as reducing swelling around the nerve. Often, anti-inflammatory medications — such as ibuprofen — are most effective.
Surgery for a pinched nerve is usually seen as a last resort. The types of surgery involved depend on the location of the affected nerve. If the pinched nerve is in the wrist or elbow, for instance, the surgeon might remove the tissue compressing the nerve. If the pinched nerve comes from a herniated disk, however, the doctor may recommend removing part of the herniated disk to allow the nerve more room to function.
Gregory Sanders is a freelance health and wellness writer based in San Diego, CA. Those dealing with sciatica are encouraged by Gregory to view the services offered by Gulf Coast Spine Care.
Image credit goes to beatingbackpain.