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What is a Pinched Nerve?

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When a nerve receives too much pressure, it is said to be “pinched.” Pain, numbness, tingling or weakness may be experienced when there is a pinched nerve. Many times, too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues, tendons, cartilage, bones or muscles. Pinched nerves most commonly occur in the lower back and are a result of pressure coming from a herniated disc. Individuals generally complain of a very intense pain that radiates out from the back and down the back of the leg. The wrist is also an area where a pinched nerve occurs and this can cause numbers or intense pain in the hand or fingers. A physician can sometimes use some conservative treatment options which will offer a patient some relief in as little as a few days, but for many individuals it takes weeks to find relief. Some individuals may require surgery in order to relieve the pain and pressure that is caused by a pinched nerve.

How does a pinched nerve occur?

A pinched nerve is the result of too much pressure being applied to the nerve. Herniated discs are the most common cause as the extra space taken up by the ruptured disc causes pressure on the root of the nerve. Inflamed muscles or tendons can sometimes increase the pressure on a nerve. Various types of injuries and conditions can compress a nerve. For individuals who perform the same actions over and over the likelihood that they will develop a pinched nerve is greatly increased as the repetitive motions add pressure to the nerve. Obesity or osteoarthritis are medical conditions that can lead to a pinched nerve. Poor posture can also put undue pressure on a nerve so that medical attention is necessary. In most instances, a nerve will be pinched for a relatively short amount of time. In these cases there is not typically any permanent damage. In most cases, once the pressure on the nerve is relieved the nerve soon returns to its normal function. However, if the pressure on the nerve is not relieved it can lead to chronic pain and in many cases, permanent nerve damage.

What are the symptoms associated with a pinched nerve?

There can be many different symptoms associated with a pinched nerve. Because it is different for each individual, each person may exhibit only one or any combination of symptoms. Sometimes an individual may sense that the area supplied by the nerve is numb or decreased in sensation. Individuals describe pain that radiates out from the area of the pinched nerve and many describe it as a sharp pain or an uncomfortable burning sensation. Sometimes a pinched nerve is located near the spinal cord, if there is direct contact between the nerve and the spinal cord, then actions such as sneezing and coughing can increase the pain. Paresthesia is a medical term for the sensation that feels like thousands of “pins and needles” are poking you all at once; this is a sensation which is commonly associated with a pinched nerve. Muscle weakness, twitching or a tingling sensation are all common to the region where the pinched nerve is located. And some individuals complain of a hand or foot that keeps “falling asleep.” Symptoms can be worse when the individual is attempting to sleep. It is very important for a person to make an appointment with the doctor if they feel they may have a pinched nerve. This will ensure proper and timely treatment so that no permanent damage results. Many times a physician can suggest the proper over the counter medications to reduce the pain and pressure and no surgery will be needed.


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