What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of pinched or compressed nerves is unexplained pain. It is important that these warnings are not ignored in order to avoid more serious consequences. Compressed nerves, if left untreated, can lead to both temporary damage and more permanent conditions, such as swelling and scarring. It can also lead to conditions including peripheral neuropathy and carpal tunnel syndrome.
These are some of the more common symptoms of compressed nerves:
- Pain in the area of compression, such as the neck or low back
- Radiating pain, such as sciatica or radicular pain
- Numbness or tingling
- Pins and needles or a burning sensation
- Weakness, especially with certain activities
- The feeling of having a foot or hand fall asleep.
Cause and treatment
A pinched or compressed nerve occurs when there is a compression on a nerve – this can be the result of repetitive motions or from holding the body in one position for long periods; for example, keeping elbows bent while sleeping. Nerve compression often occurs when nerves are pressed between narrow tissues, such as ligaments, tendons, or bones.
Pain experienced as a result of a compressed or pinched nerves can affect a number of areas on the body. For example, inflammation or pressure on a nerve root exiting the spine may cause neck or low back pain, cause pain to move from the neck and into the shoulder and arms and may even reach the legs and feet.
There are a number of treatment options for compressed nerves – which ones are utilised will depend on the severity and cause of nerve compression. In some cases, simply resting the affected area and avoiding activities that worsen symptoms can be enough to aid recovery.
However, more severe cases could require interventions such as physical therapy and a procedure or surgery to remove the material that is pressing on the nerve. This may be scar tissue, disc material, or pieces of bone.
Medications may also be used to treat symptoms of compressed or pinched nerves. These can include:
- Oral corticosteroids – to reduce pain and swelling
- Prescription painkillers (including opioids) – used for short periods to reduce severe pain
- Steroids – to reduce swelling and allow inflamed nerves to recover