A trapped nerve, or a pinched nerve, occurs when a nerve has pressure applied to it by surrounding tissue, such as bone, cartilage, muscle or tendons. This can result in pain, tingling, numbness or weakness, most often in the area of the pinched nerve but can also be felt as referred pain in another part of the body.
For example, when the sciatic nerve is affected (ie sciatica) the pain can start in the lower back and radiate down the leg, or it may be felt on the calf muscle only. Likewise, a pinched nerve in the wrist can lead to pain and numbness in the hand and fingers (carpal tunnel syndrome).
The symptoms on a trapped nerve include:
- Numbness or decreased sensation in the area supplied by the nerve
- Sharp, aching or burning pain that radiates outward
- Tingling or pins and needles sensations
- Muscle weakness in the affected area
- Feeling that the has or foot has fallen asleep
When pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissue it may become pinched or trapped. This could be from bone or cartilage as in the case of a herniated disc. Or it might be caused by muscles or tendons, that have become inflamed or swollen or tightened.
A number of conditions may cause the tissue to compress a nerve or nerves. These include:
- Rheumatoid or wrist arthritis
- Repetitive Stress Injury
- Activity such as exercise
In cases when the nerve has been trapped for a short time there will be no lasting damage to the nerve, however, if left untreated permanent damage, and even chronic pain can result.
There are a number of things you can do to help yourself if you feel you have a trapped nerve. These include:
- Maintain good positioning – avoid crossing your legs or lying in one position for a long time.
- Adjust your posture – you may need to change how to stand or sit in order to relieve pain.
- Rest – take time off from the activities that can aggravate the trapped nerve.
- Splint – in the case of carpal tunnel syndrome a splint may help support the wrist and allow you to rest the wrist.
- Stretch – incorporate some gentle stretching exercise into your day to stretch any tightened areas that are pinching the nerve.
- Heat – applying heat to tight muscles can help relieve them
- Ice – for areas that are inflamed and causing the compression on the nerve.
- Painkillers or anti-inflammatory medication.
Where the pain persists, you may need to have some physical therapy to relieve any tightness or inflammation.
In cases where stress is the cause, additional help with relieving the stress in your life would be very beneficial.
At The Hannon Clinic, we work to find the cause of the problem, and we treat the cause as well as the symptoms.