Our nerves send information from our brains and spinal cord out over our entire body, as well as taking information from the rest of our body and sending it back to our brain. They allow us to move, sense, feel, think and assist in all of our bodily functions. So when you suffer a trapped nerve, it can be very unpleasant.
How Do Trapped Nerves Happen?
A trapped nerve is exactly how it sounds – a nerve that is compressed or prevented from moving by one or more contributing factors. Nerves can become trapped anywhere along their route, but this most commonly occurs in areas where the nerve runs through a small space, for example, when it leaves the spine.
This can happen at any level of the spine, and will produce differing symptoms based on where the compression is occurring:
- Cervical (neck) nerve compression can present as: neck, shoulder, arm, hand or facial pain; pins and needles, numbness or weakness in any of these areas; and headaches.
- Thoracic (upper and mid-back) nerve compression can present as: upper to mid-back pain; chest, rib or abdominal pain; and pins and needles/numbness in any of these areas.
- Lumbar (lower back) nerve compression can present as: lower back, buttock, leg, and foot pain; and pins and needles, numbness and weakness in any of these areas. It can also manifest as a lack of ability to lift the foot (foot drop). Pain from this region is often referred to as “Sciatica”.
Trapped nerves can result from varying circumstances. Often, muscle tension or spasm can create increased pressure in the areas surrounding the nerves, resulting in temporary compression. They can also become trapped or irritated during sustained positions or repetitive movement e.g. poor posture from a desk job or repetitive strain injury at the wrist.
More severe physiological changes in the spine, such as disc bulges or loss of disc height, scarring, swelling, bony overgrowth or vertebral slipping (spondylolisthesis) can also cause changes to the space the nerve travels through and result in compression, although these are far less common.
Symptoms of trapped nerves will often resolve over a 12-week period, either spontaneously or as a result of intervention. Treatments can range from the conservative to the surgical.
A physiotherapist will be able to help you to discover the potential cause for a trapped nerve, restore range of movement and function to the affected areas, reduce your pain levels, improve on poor posture, and give you the tools to help prevent further recurrence of this condition.
An OHP Kelowna physiotherapist can teach you exercises that strengthen and stretch the muscles in the affected area to relieve pressure on the nerve. He or she may also recommend modifications to activities that aggravate the nerve.
When rest does not help a pinched nerve, visiting an OHP Kelowna chiropractor should be considered. They will perform a full consultation that will include your health history and a full examination physical exam to check for any nerve interference to the nerves. This will help your chiropractor better understand the underlying cause of your pain and discomfort.
Treatments your chiropractor could use to help your pinched nerve include:
- Chiropractic adjustments to manipulate your spine, legs, arms, and/or neck.
- Physiotherapy, which involves using ultrasound treatment, electrotherapy, or ice packs, to reduce inflammation, pain, or muscle spasms.
- Flexion distraction, a decompression technique that requires a specially designed table, to take pressure off your spine and help with alignment.
As an overall preventative measure, maintaining an active healthy lifestyle is extremely beneficial to general health. Regular exercise, upholding correct posture and a healthy diet throughout life will strengthen bones, muscles and tissues; therefore, minimizing the effects of wear and tear during the ageing process, and ultimately decreasing the likelihood of various age related conditions.