Here are some symptoms you may experience if you have a pinched nerve.
- You may experience a ‘pins and needles’ sensation, or what some patients describe as a burning pain.
- You may feel discomfort in your back, your neck, or any number of places in your body.
- You may experience pain for a short or long period of time.
In any of these cases, the culprit may be a pinched nerve. And as anyone who’s ever had one can tell you, they’re no fun!
What Is a Pinched Nerve?
In the most simple terms, this condition is caused by compression of the tissues— things like bones, tendons, muscles or cartilage — surrounding a nerve.
This pressure often sends warning signals to the brain which are then interpreted as pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness.
What Areas of The Body Are Most Susceptible to a Pinched Nerve?
Pinched nerves can happen anywhere in the body, but most commonly this condition occurs in the spine.
Soft disks, which are the cushion between your vertebrae, can ‘slip’ out of place, causing pressure on the nerves in that area. Bone growths called spurs can also press on nerve roots, causing pain.
Areas of the spine particularly vulnerable include:
- Cervical Spine (cervical radiculopathy): located in the neck area, the cervical spine protects a group of nerves that runs from the brain to the neck and upper middle back.
- Thoracic Spine (thoracic radiculopathy): located in the middle back and rib cage area.
- Lumbar Spine (lumbar radiculopathy): this area is located in the lowest part of your back.
Although this condition most often occurs in the spine, another well-known example of a pinched nerve is carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel results when tendons, ligaments, or bones put pressure on the tunnel through which the median nerve travels (which provides sensation to the fingers).
Who Is Most Likely to Have a Pinched Nerve?
A pinched nerve can develop at any age, but those patients aged 50 or older are more vulnerable to this condition as a result of things like spinal degeneration or arthritis.
Other risk factors include:
- People with diabetes
- People whose job requires them to perform repetitive hand, wrist, or shoulder movements
- Prolonged bed rest
Interestingly, carpal tunnel syndrome is more common in women than in men, possibly because women have smaller carpal tunnels in their wrists.
What Are the Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve?
You may experience pain in a specific area of your body or you may feel a more generalized pain, but it’s also possible to have a pinched nerve with no symptoms at all.
You may also experience pain in areas not associated with a pinched nerve such as in the diaphragm or kidneys. You may even experience problems with bladder or bowel control.
General signs of a pinched nerve can include things like:
- Numbness, tingling (paresthesia), or decreased sensation in the area supplied by the nerve.
- Sharp, aching, or burning pain (which can radiate outward from the location of the pinched nerve).
- Muscle weakness.
Common symptoms in specific areas of the body may include:
- Cervical Spine: a pinched nerve here can cause a stiff neck with pain and/or numbness that radiates to the shoulder and arm.
- Thoracic Spine: a pinched nerve in this region may present as chest pain or pain in the rib area.
(An obvious but important note: if you are experiencing severe chest pain, call your healthcare provider as this can also be a symptom of having a heart attack.)
- Lumbar Spine: Pain in the lower back, hips, buttocks, and legs can be symptoms of a pinched nerve in this area. Sciatica is a common result of a pinched nerve in the lumbar spine.
- Arm and Elbow: A pinched nerve can occur as the result of pressure on the ulnar nerve.
- Wrist and Hand: Tingling pain or numbness in the fingers is often caused by carpal tunnel syndrome and pain can radiate up the arm.
When Should I Seek Treatment for a Pinched Nerve?
Although symptoms sometimes resolve themselves, you should seek treatment for pain that is persistent or that grows progressively worse.
In some cases, a pinched nerve can become a much bigger problem, causing chronic pain and even permanent nerve damage so it’s important to seek treatment sooner rather than later if you think you might have a pinched nerve.
The doctors of South Orange Chiropractic Center are trained in treating pinched nerves and are committed to helping people resolve pain and improve their health and productivity.
If you think you may have a pinched nerve, we’d like to help. Please contact us today.