Pinched Nerve-Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Diagnosis


Back pains, stiffness in the neck, inability to move the hands as well as the wrist, and a tingling sensation in the fingers, these are the common effects of a pinched nerve. Pinched nerve happens when a nerve is injured or damaged due to compression or direct pressure along the pathway where it is situated.

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There are two types of nerves, motor and sensory nerves. They are distributed and are located in different parts of the body. Nerves that carry information from the brain out to the different areas of the body are the motor nerves and the nerves that send back information from the body to the brain are the sensory nerves. When there is a pinched nerve, signal is disrupted along the pathway.

Pinched Nerve in Shoulder

Do you get a pricking, painful sensation in the shoulder, this can be due pinched nerve in shoulder. The tendons, bones, cartilage or muscles close to the nerve, compress it and you get a pinch type pain in the shoulder. The muscle is tightened and one feels the pain in the shoulder. The nerves that are ‘pinched’ in the shoulders are called C5,C6,C7 and C8. One can treat or relieve the pain of the pinched nerve in the shoulder with an ice bag placed on the shoulder area, thaough it canoot completely cure. You can go your doctor for further line of treatment in case the pain persists. The right kind of posture (keeping the body straight) can also relieve pinched nerve in shoulder.

Pinched nerve in the neck, back

A pinched nerve in the neck or back, particularly lower back is caused due to bone spurs, arthritis, herniated disc or spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis happens due to narrowing of spinal canal through which the nerves move through the spine. If there is a pinched never in the lower back, it can cause compression of the sciatic nerve, causing ‘sciatica’.

Pinched nerve in the wrist or elbow

Pinched nerve in the wrist is mostly due to carpal tunnel syndrome. This is caused due to the median nerve compressing as it moves through the tightened wrist tissues. There is another condition called ‘cubital tunnel syndrome’ which happens due to by compression of the ulnar nerve located in the elbow area. These conditions are common in people who do repetitive actions like being on a computer keyboard for long hours of time, typing, assembly line work and diabetics.

Pinched Nerve Symptoms

Various symptoms can occur when there is a pinched nerve in the affected area. If there is a pinched nerve, pain, prickling sensation, numbness, weakness of muscles in the nerve area and burning sensation can be felt. In specific areas particularly in the neck, pain and stiffness exists which extends to the arms. In the lower back, if a nerve is pinched there is back pain and stiffness that goes down to the legs. Pinched nerve in the elbow affects the forearm, fourth and small fingers. In the wrist, a pinched nerve affects the thumb, middle and index fingers which cause pain, numbness and weakness of the muscles of the palm close to the thumb.

Causes of Pinched Nerve

A pinched nerve usually occurs in the parts of the body where there are many movements involved such as flexing and extension particularly in the wrists and elbows as well as the neck. The spinal cord that basically houses and protects the nerves which is located at the back can also injure a nerve if there are bone spurs that compress the nerve along the cervical disc.

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A pinched nerve that occurs in the wrist can be attributed to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This happens when the median nerve is compressed due to the inflammation of a tendon that passes along the pathway within the wrist. In the elbow, when the ulnar nerve is pinched it leads to Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. People who have diabetes and those who work for long hours using their hands and fingers are susceptible to Carpal and Cubital Tunnel Syndrome.

In the neck and lower back region, arthritis, herniated disc, spinal stenosis and bone spurs contribute to pinched nerve problem. Sciatica, which is the pain that affects the back, hip and outer part of the leg, is caused by a compressed sciatic nerve. A pinched nerve can also be caused by certain injuries, wounds, and several conditions which include inflammation of the extremities particularly during pregnancy.

Pinched Nerve Diagnosis

To begin with the diagnosis, the doctor will gather information by asking the patient several questions pertaining to the symptoms such as numbness, pain, weakness of muscles, and prickling sensation. All the information is very vital since these will provide the doctor full knowledge to determine of the symptoms pertain to a pinched nerve problem. If indeed there is a pinched nerve, the patient may undergo a series of tests which include assessment of the patient’s sensation, tone of the muscles and strength in the affected area of the body. X-rays, CT scan, MRI and physical examination will also be conducted to accurately assess the problem so that proper treatment can be provided to the patient. Other specific tests the doctor may recommend for the pinched nerve problem are electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction study. In electromyography, electrical activity of the affected muscles is measured with the use of a small needle which is placed into the muscle while the patient tries to contract the muscles. In the conduction study of the nerve, stimulation of the nerve is performed with the use of a mild electrical impulse where the speed of the impulse that travels in the nerve is measured.

Pinched Nerve Treatment

Treatment depends on the severity of the condition of the pinched nerve. When a person is suffering from a pinched nerve, treatment can be done at home by applying ice on the affected area. Sufficient rest for the injured nerve is needed for it to heal in a natural way. However, if the pinched nerve continues to persist, there is a need to consult a doctor. The doctor will conduct medical tests to examine the severity of the pinched nerve, this will enable the doctor to determine if the patient requires surgery or not. If the pinched nerve does not need surgery, the doctor may recommend braces for the injured nerve. Although braces may not be comfortable, it impedes movement of the affected area which is very effective in treating the pinched nerve. The doctor will also prescribe anti-inflammatory medications for the patient to alleviate swelling and pain of the nerves.

If the patient undergoes surgery, surgical procedure depends on the area where there is a pinched nerve. In the cases of Carpal and Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, the doctor may remove some tissues to relieve the pressure on the nerve. If the surgery of the pinched nerve is in the neck and lower back, the surgeon may remove bone spurs in the disc that cause the compression of the nerves in the spine. If the surgery requires removing a larger portion of the disc, there is a need for a spinal fusion. This method is a surgical technique of fusing two or more vertebrae to relieve the pinched nerve.

Pinched Nerve Prognosis

As long as the treatment procedure is followed correctly, a person with a pinched nerve will regain normal movement of the affected area. Patients should prohibit themselves from engaging in strenuous activities to avoid more complications and to allow the injured nerve to heal. Treatment process includes rest, physical therapy, occupational therapy and medications. In severe conditions, surgery is the best option for treatment. Pinched nerve is not life threatening if injury is well taken care of. If it is ignored, condition can become aggravated which may lead to paralysis, loss of sensation, amputation and even death.

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