Pinched nerves are relatively common, and their symptoms range from mild to severe. Learning more about what causes a pinched nerve and what you can do to alleviate the symptoms will help you and your doctor make better decisions about your care.
What Is a Pinched Nerve?
The term “pinched nerve” refers to a nerve injury in which unusual pressure on part of a nerve causes that nerve to send pain or discomfort signals to the brain. Most pinched nerves are caused by injuries, including everything from repetitive motions to sports injuries and even accidents. However, certain medical conditions, which include rheumatoid arthritis and even obesity, can also cause pinched nerves. When devising a pinched nerve treatment plan, it is crucial to understand the specific cause and address it with the best possible therapies.
Pinched Nerve Symptoms
The symptoms associated with pinched nerves can vary a great deal from one patient to the next, and they can also vary depending on the cause. Patients may experience a tingling sensation, numbness, burning, a “pins and needles” sensation, muscle weakness, and varying degrees of pain. Many patients find that their symptoms tend to flare up upon getting out of bed in the morning, and for some, the pain and symptoms intensify when they lay down at night. Everyone experiences pinched nerves differently, and for this reason, the treatments are diverse.
Pinched Nerve Treatment Options
The three most common pinched nerve treatments are physical therapy, medications, and surgery. Each one has its benefits.
- Physical therapy. If muscles have pinched the nerve, physical therapy is a fantastic option. It can help you learn how to stretch those muscles in such a way that you can relieve the pressure. It can also help you strengthen the muscle, so it no longer causes the same degree of pain.
- Medications. Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium can relieve the inflammation and swelling in the muscles, thereby relieving the pressure on the nerve. Doctors may sometimes provide corticosteroid injections (or oral corticosteroids) to further reduce swelling and pain.
- Surgery. Sometimes, the best course of action involves surgical treatments that relieve the pressure on the nerve. Sometimes surgeons can remove bone spurs or other abnormalities that lead to the pinched nerve, for example.
A pinched nerve can cause significant distress, whether it prevents you from enjoying your favorite hobby or even makes getting out of bed in the morning a difficult and painful task. Fortunately, no matter the cause of the pinched nerve, there is likely a treatment that can alleviate your pain and get you back on your feet again.