Are you suffering from symptoms of a pinched nerve? A pinched nerve can have a negative impact on your daily activities and can even be debilitating. In order to understand how a pinched nerve can affect you, it is important to understand what a nerve can do for you.
Introduction to Nerves
Nerves carry information from your brain to the rest of your body. They also carry information from the rest of your body to your brain. They can be found all throughout your body.
Types of Nerves
- Efferent Nerves – These are also called motor nerves.
They carry information from your brain out to the rest of your body. They allow your brain to send commands to the various organs of your body. These nerves cause your muscles to contract and move or your heart to beat faster or slower. They play a very significant role in how your body functions.
- Afferent Nerves – These are also called sensory nerves. They send information from your body to your brain to be processed. These nerves are responsible for allowing your brain to process pain, taste, temperature, touch, and any other sensations.
This information travels along your nerves by an electrochemical signal similar to how information travels along an electrical cord. When there is a pinched nerve, this signal is interrupted along its path.
Causes of a Pinched Nerve
A nerve can become compressed when it is damaged or injured by direct pressure and is not able to properly send the information. There are many causes for why a nerve can become pinched. On this site, you will learn the many different causes. Do you have a herniated disc? Is arthritis the culprit? Do you have a bone spur pinching your nerve?
Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve
The symptoms will depend on where the nerve is being compressed. Compare your symptoms to those in the pages of this site to help you determine if you have a pinched nerve in your arm, leg, back, shoulder, or neck. A pinched nerve can be tricky to locate because you could have a pinched nerve in your neck and feel symptoms in your shoulder because nerves travel throughout your body.
Is it truly a Pinched Nerve?
You can experience symptoms that mimic a pinched nerve. However, these symptoms may not truly be the result of a pinched nerve. Learn the differences and how to determine if the pain and/or symptoms you are experiencing are truly from a pinched nerve and not some other type of spinal condition.
Diagnosis of a Pinched Nerve
Your doctor will ask you various questions about your pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, and any other symptoms you are experiencing. You will also be asked about medical conditions, your work history, and any family medical history. This can help to identify the nerves being affected.
After processing this information, your doctor may decide to order X-rays to assess the possible injury to your spine or determine if it is arthritis. If the X-rays indicate severe damage, he or she may order a CT scan or MRI scan. These scans provide imaging that cannot be seen on an X-ray.
There are also specific tests that can be performed, which are a nerve conduction study or an electromyography (EMG). A nerve conduction study stimulates the nerves with a mild electrical impulse and measures the speed of the impulse traveling within the nerve. The EMG is a small needle that is placed directly into the muscle while you contract the muscle to measure the electrical activity of your muscles.
Treatment of a Pinched Nerve
On this site, you will learn some non-surgical approaches and surgical options for treating a compressed nerve. When is surgery considered? What are some things you can do to relieve pressure without surgery?
You will discover why a support brace can actually inhibit healing. If this is the case, then why are support braces recommended? Will medication help you? What type of medication do you need to take?
Ice and heat therapy is also highly recommended in the early stages of an injury. Which one is better? Which one should you do first? How long should you apply ice and heat therapy? Learn why heat can aggravate a pinched nerve if not done at the correct time.
Can a chiropractor help you? This is an alternative approach where pressure is relieved by chiropractic adjustments. Carefully directed and controlled pressure can restore joints to a normal position and motion. The pressure on the nerve is quickly reduced offering painless and instant relief.
Surgery is also an option. It is considered only after all other treatments are ineffective at improving the symptoms. It will also be recommended if you develop additional weakness in your muscles or if particular nerves that are being pinched will cause loss of control of your bowels or bladder, which is called cauda equina syndrome.
The surgery will depend on the location of the nerve that is being pinched. If it is in the wrist or elbow, a surgeon can release tissues over the nerve in the wrist or elbow to relieve the pressure. If it is in the neck or lower back, a portion of the disc or bone spurs compressing the nerve in the spine can be removed. More severe cases may require a larger portion of the bone or disc to be removed. This will require a spinal fusion to stabilize the spine after relieving the nerve.
Traditional surgical treatment will involve decompression by removing the obstruction to free up the space in the spinal or nerve canals. Common pinched nerve surgeries are foraminotomy and laminotomy. They are generally performed in a hospital under general anesthesia. A piece of the lamina is removed during a laminotomy. The lamina acts as a shield to cover the spinal cord. In a foraminotomy, the opening where the nerve exits the spinal cord is surgically enlarged to relieve pressure from the nerve. These procedures both involve a large incision, as well as damage to your muscles and tissue; therefore, recovery time can take several weeks.
The best surgical approach is laser spine surgery. A foraminotomy and laminotomy can also be performed; however, they are done on an outpatient basis. It is minimally invasive surgery that involves endoscopic techniques that will cut down on the incision, pain, and recovery time.
Do not ignore symptoms of a compressed nerve. Contact your doctor for further instructions on how to manage the symptoms. The information on this site is designed to help you recognize and manage the symptoms of a pinched nerve.