Nerves extend from the spinal cord and branch out to the arms and legs to facilitate movement and sensation. When a nerve is compressed or pinched, the flow of nutrients within the nerve is cut off or reduced, which can lead to pain and impairment of function. In order to prevent nerve damage, you should be aware of the signs of a pinched nerve so you can seek proper medical attention. You can also take steps to prevent your chances of suffering from a pinched nerve.
Signs and Symptoms of Pinched Nerves
Depending on the location of the pinched nerve, symptoms may present in the buttocks, legs, neck, shoulders, arms, or fingers. Initially, pinched nerves can cause a burning sensation, shooting pain, tingling, or numbness. Muscle weakness may also develop. Sometimes symptoms are present in an area that is distant from the pinched nerve. For example, a pinched nerve in the lower back may result in pain or numbness in the leg.
If untreated, this pressure on the nerves can lead to nerve damage. Nerve damage can increase pain and muscle weakness, and can eventually result in a loss of reflexes, movement, and sensation in the affected area. If you experience any of these symptoms, see a doctor right away. Often, symptoms resolve with nonsurgical treatment.
Treatment for Pinched Nerves
In some cases, rest is all that is needed to alleviate symptoms. If you have a pinched nerve, your doctor will likely suggest that you avoid any activities that aggravate the pinched nerve. Other nonsurgical options include anti-inflammatory and pain medications, hot/cold therapy, massage therapy, and physical therapy. If you suspect you have a pinched nerve, see a healthcare professional who can help you with a treatment plan that fits your needs.
If more conservative treatment methods fail to relieve your symptoms, your doctor may suggest corticosteroid injections to help with inflammation. Most patients find that their symptoms resolve with nonsurgical treatment, but if symptoms don’t improve after several weeks or months of treatment, surgery may be necessary to take pressure off the nerve. Surgical procedures for pinched nerves vary depending on the location and cause of the pinched nerve, but often entails removing the portion of bone or herniated disc that is pressing on the nerve.
How to Prevent Pinched Nerves
Pinched nerves can be caused by several factors and conditions, including the normal wear and tear the spine experiences with aging. There is no way to absolutely prevent a pinched nerve, but there are steps that you can take to decrease your chances.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Maintain a healthy diet and stay active. A good diet and exercise can help you to keep your weight down. Maintaining a healthy weight can help to take pressure off the spine, which lessens your chances of developing a condition that could result in a pinched nerve.
Exercise helps you to stay healthy and maintain your weight. If you choose the right exercises, you can also strengthen your back and abdominal muscles, reducing some of the weight on your spine. Try incorporating some stretching and strength exercises into your normal routine.
Try not to stay in the same position for too long. If you work at a desk, try to get up and walk around a bit every hour or so. When you experience back pain, it might be tempting to stay in place, but walking often helps to alleviate pain.
Check your posture.
Slouching puts excessive pressure on the spine, which can lead to conditions that could result in pinched nerves. Pay mind to your posture when sitting and standing, and you will lower your risk of back pain and injury.
Keep these tips in mind, but remember to consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any treatment regimen or exercise program. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a pinched nerve, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention.