What is a Pinched Nerve?
A pinched nerve is the name given to the uncomfortable sensation, pain, or numbness caused when increased pressure leads to irritation or damage to a peripheral nerve (a nerve that is outside the brain and spinal cord). Although this condition is often associated with back pain or a neck injury, almost any nerve is susceptible.
Causes of a Pinched Nerve
Anything which increases pressure around a nerve can cause a pinched nerve. Pressure on a peripheral nerve can irritate the nerve itself, its protective covering (myelin sheath) or both. When this occurs, the nerve is unable to conduct sensory impulses to the brain appropriately, leading to a sense of numbness. This inflammation associated with the damage or injury can also cause pain or paresthesia (a tingling or prickling sensation) signals to be sent to the brain. In its early stages, many people may describe this sensation as a body part that has “fallen asleep.” However, if nerve inflammation continues, this sensation persists rather than resolving after a few minutes.
If the nerve is compressed for a short amount of time, it is often able to repair itself but it may take several weeks or months for the symptoms to fully resolve. However, if the compression remains present for a long time, permanent nerve injury may occur.
Common causes may include one or more of the following:
- Body position, such as leaning on elbows, habitually crossing legs, or poor posture. Over time this may lead to pressure injury to nerves in these regions.
- Spinal misalignment or postural distortion of the spine resulting in nerve irritation or compression (subluxation)
- A herniated disc, a bulging disc and arthritis in the spine can cause pressure on nerve roots, which leads to the pain or discomfort associated with a pinched nerve.
- Weight gain or water retention can predispose people to developing pinched nerves; thyroid disease (especially hypothyroidism or low thyroid hormone levels) can contribute to both water retention and weight gain and can increase the risk of certain types of pinched nerves.
- Pregnancy, which is associated with increased weight and occasionally associated with water retention, is also a common risk factor for developing certain types of pinched nerves.
- Repetitive activities (typing and using certain tools) can also increase swelling around specific nerves and lead to symptoms of a pinched nerve.
Pinched Nerve Chiropractic Care
A Doctor of Chiropractor is trained and licensed in the diagnosis and treatment of pinched nerves. In fact, correcting problems caused by irritation and / or compression of nerves is the premise for which chiropractic was developed.
At Westwood Total Health, we discuss your history, complete an examination, and if needed use x-rays to determine if the cause of your symptoms are related to a pinched nerve. A treatment program is prepared, which may include adjustment (manipulation) of misaligned vertebra (the bones of the spine) to reduce or eliminate the pressure on the affected pinched nerve. Our goal is to help your spine function properly so your nerves work better, helping you get back on your feet and moving. The long term goal is to restore correct alignment and function in your spine, which will allow for increased healing. Proper rehabilitation of the supporting musculature may also be required to restore proper function, therefore corrective exercises may be included with an adjustment program.
Tips to Prevent a Pinched Nerve
The following measures may help you prevent a pinched nerve:
- Maintain good posture
- Incorporate strength and flexibility exercises into your regular exercise program
- Limit repetitive activities and take frequent breaks when engaging in these activities
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Regular spinal maintenance including preventative and corrective chiropractic care, spinal movement exercises, and home posture exercises
Pinched Nerve Research Articles
In May 2001, the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research conducted a review on the effects of mild compression on spinal nerve roots with implications for models of vertebral subluxation and the clinical effects of chiropractic adjustment. It concluded nerve function can be significantly altered and the chiropractic adjustment can effect a restoration of compressed nerve roots.