A trapped nerve, also known as a pinched nerve, is the result of pressure caused by the surrounding soft tissue (tendons, ligaments, muscles, bone and cartilage). As a result, the nerve is prevented from performing its natural function, thus causing symptoms such as pain, numbness, tingling and weakness. The pressure can also result in inflammation of the nerve.
A trapped nerve originating from the spine can cause referred pain to areas such as your arms, hand, legs and feet. For instance, sciatica can be a result of a pinched nerve due to a disc herniation in your spine. In other instances, a trapped nerve along the sacral plexus (group of nerve fibers that exit the sacral bone) can also cause sciatic pain. Occasionally, some people will have sciatica due to a pinched nerve within the piriformis muscle (muscle in the buttocks). As you can see, there can be many factors which can cause a nerve to be trapped. The way to accurately diagnose the cause of your pain is through examining your signs and symptoms.
Trapped nerve signs and symptoms include:
1. Any numbness (lack of sensation), tingling, or weakness along the body part where the nerve runs through.
2. Sensations of “pins and needles” in the affected area.
3. Sharp or burning pain sensation
Here is a list of common causes for a trapped nerve:
1. Accident, Injury, Trauma
2. Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)
4. Canal Stenosis
5. Disc Herniation
6. Overuse Injuries/Repetitive Stress Injuries
7. Poor Posture
10. Osteoporotic fractures
Generally, there is no permanent damage if a nerve is trapped for a short duration. However, if the trapped nerve is untreated and the pressure continues, the result can be chronic pain and possible permanent nerve damage. Many people will recover from the effects of a pinched nerve within days or weeks with proper rest and conservative treatment. Stopping any activities that can cause or aggravate the nerve compression is essential to a full recovery. In some instances, it may be necessary to wear a brace or splint to immobilize the area, such as in carpal tunnel syndrome.
There are some preventative measures that can you can take. For example, maintain a healthy body weight, limit activities that are repetitive in work and maintain good posture. There are also stretches and rehabilitation exercises that are specifically designed to alleviate the pain from a trapped nerve. Your doctor may prescribe pain medication or use a corticosteroid injection to minimize the pain and inflammation. For those who want a more natural approach to treating the trapped nerve, there are also alternatives such as acupuncture, chiropractic and physical therapy that have provided some people with relief.
In general, if a trapped nerve shows no signs of improvement or progressively becomes worse after three months of conservative treatment, surgery may be required. The type of surgery would depend on the location of the pinched nerve. For instance, the different kinds of surgery can involve removal of portions of a herniated disc, nerve release, removing ligament structures or taking out bone spurs. Each trapped nerve case requires a specific surgical procedure.