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Navigating Nerve Pain: Identifying the Signs of a Pinched Nerve

If you’ve ever felt pressure in a specific area of your body followed by either numbness or a sense of pain, you may have been the victim of a pinched nerve.

While nerve pain caused by a pinched nerve is most common in the lower spine, you can also experience it in your neck or the other parts of your back. Read on to learn how to watch out for this notorious spinal condition.

What Is a Pinched Nerve?

If you remember high school biology or anatomy, then you probably know that nerves deliver signals between your brain and the rest of your body, including your sense of feeling. When these nerves get put under pressure and become squeezed or compressed, they may fail to work properly and lead to what is known as a pinched nerve.

Increased pressure on your nerve can lead to altered nerve function, including telltale signs of pain, tingling, and even weakness in the affected area. Depending on the nature of the pinched nerve, which is formally referred to as radiculopathy, you could also experience shooting pains.

Sciatica, which is characterized as sharp pain throughout the lower back and parts of the leg, is a common example of a pinched nerve condition (in this case, that sciatic nerve). 

Common Areas Affected by a Pinched Nerve

Because radiculopathy occurs at the root of a nerve, this problem will typically be located in an area of your body directly connected to your spinal cord. This is because your spinal cord, which is housed in the spinal canal and protected within the bones of your spine (called vertebrae), contains the nerve roots that branch out into the rest of your body.

Due to the positioning of the spinal nerves, most instances of a pinched nerve will happen in your lower back region. In this case, the problem is referred to as lumbar radiculopathy. However, as mentioned above, compressed nerves can occur elsewhere along the spine, such as the middle back (i.e. the thoracic spine) or the neck region (in which case the condition is known as cervical radiculopathy).

It is less common but still possible for nerves that run throughout your appendages to become pinched by ligaments or tendons or damaged by external factors. This kind of nerve pain is referred to as mononeuropathy. 

Causes of a Pinched Nerve

Several bodily issues can put pressure on a nerve root and lead to a pinched nerve. One common culprit is a herniated disc. When the protective discs between your vertebrae move out of alignment (i.e. you experience a “slipped disc”), over time they can put pressure on the nerves in your spine.

As you grow older, your body may also develop projections called bone spurs, which often jut out at joints or along the vertebral column and can put additional pressure on your nerve roots.

Other possible causes of radiculopathy include the breakdown of protective soft tissue structures through traumatic injury, arthritis, or repetitive movements (e.g. typing all day at a computer in the same way that causes carpal tunnel syndrome). Because of the pressure it places on your joints, obesity is also a serious risk factor for pinched nerves.

Pinched Nerve Symptoms

The biggest warning signs for a pinched nerve are shooting pains, severe pain at the site of the nerve compression, feelings of numbness or tingling, and a sensation of burning or “pins and needles” (such as one of your limbs chronically “falling asleep”).

Another common symptom is muscle weakness in the area surrounding the pinched nerve. If any of the symptoms mentioned above get worse when you turn your neck or while you’re sleeping, that’s another red flag that you could be suffering from a pinched nerve.

These symptoms will usually be felt in the neck, arms, or hands (if the pinched nerve is located in your cervical spine), or in the feet, legs, pelvis, or buttocks (if the pinched nerve is located in your lumbar spine).

How to Prevent a Pinched Nerve

While some nerve risk factors are unavoidable, such as the wear and tear of aging or injuries caused by unforeseen accidents, there are still steps you can take to mitigate your risk of developing a pinched nerve.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to develop and maintain a high level of physical fitness. This includes a combination of strenuous exercise done with proper form (high-intensity aerobics, running, weight-based strength training, etc.) and more casual forms of physical recreation (e.g. nature walks, casual swimming, light stretching), as well as lifestyle changes (especially limiting smoking and eating a healthy diet).

Practicing good posture while sitting, standing, or walking at home and work can also go a long way toward reducing the pressure placed on your joints.

How to Treat a Pinched Nerve

If you suspect that you are currently suffering from a pinched nerve, you should contact your primary healthcare provider. He or she may refer you to a board-certified neurologist who can use a physical exam or even an x-ray to diagnose you with radiculopathy if you do in fact have a pinched nerve.

After determining the extent of your condition, the neurologist may prescribe a treatment plan consisting of medication, physical therapy, a combination of the two, or even a recommendation for surgery. Depending on the severity of your radiculopathy, you may be able to control the nerve pain and find effective treatment through chiropractic care as well.

Contact Cornerstone Chiropractic Today to Schedule an Appointment

Are you experiencing nerve pain or other forms of pain related to spinal misalignment? The gentle, non-invasive back pain treatments you can receive from the experts at Cornerstone Chiropractic are just what you’ve been looking for.

Our neurological-based chiropractic care focuses on your overall wellness and is designed with your needs in mind. Give us a call or make an appointment online to start living pain-free!

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The longer we wait to address a problem, the longer it will take to resolve it. The sooner we attend to your health issues, the sooner you will be able to enjoy a happy, healthy, and pain-free life. Please complete this form to begin your healing journey. Or you can call our chiropractic offices at (605) 540-4004.