Pinched nerves, also referred to as trapped nerves or compressed nerves, can occur along any segment of the spine.
Most often they tend to affect the cervical spine, where trapped spinal nerves are referred to as cervical radiculopathy, and can often lead to neck pain, stiffness and reduced mobility. The lumbar spine is also often affected, often leading to sciatic nerve pain. However, there are some cases when the thoracic spine can also be affected.
Although nerve compression can be uncomfortable to deal with, it is often not a cause for concern and often an affected nerve heals on its own. However, if symptoms persist, there are various pain management and treatment options to choose from, including self-treatment and home remedies. If the symptoms still don’t go away, it may be time for visit to the doctor to obtain a medical diagnosis who can check for potential nerve damage or other serious conditions.
Pinched Nerve Symptoms
A pinched nerve doesn’t always cause symptoms as in many cases the pinching itself does not trigger pain sensations, but rather it is irritation of the nerve caused by rubbing against other spine structures that triggers pain and other potential symptoms such as weakness, numbness or tingling sensations.
The symptoms also tend to vary depending on the spine section that has been affected.
- Pinched nerves in the cervical region can cause pain, stiffness and other symptoms that can affect the neck, shoulders, or even arms.
- Pinched nerves in the thoracic spine can cause similar symptoms in the middle of the back, but sometimes these can also extend to the chest, causing pain.
- Lumbar pinched nerves can cause pain, stiffness, numbness and weakness in the lower back, hips, thighs and even lower legs, as well as potential walking difficulties. One of the nerves in this region that is most commonly affected is the sciatic nerve.
One of the most common causes of nerve pinching is a herniated or bulging disc. A herniated disc is a spinal disc that presents a crack in its outer shell, allowing the inner contents to protrude through that crack.
Because the protrusion is not part of the original anatomical arrangement of spine structures, it can take up some of the space dedicated for spinal nerve roots, and often rub against them. In this case, addressing the disc problem and allowing the herniation to heal will help reduce or even completely get rid of any pain or other symptoms.
Apart from spinal disc problems, other causes for nerve pinching include:
- The growth of bone spurs, which can irritate spinal nerves in a similar manner to spinal discs. Bony spurs are tiny bone formations that can grow on the spine and narrow the spinal canal, leading to spinal stenosis. This, in turn, can push against nerves and irritate them, triggering nerve impulses for pain.
- Spondylolisthesis, a condition where a vertebral segment slips forward, can slip onto a nerve, trapping it between two spinal segments.
- Piriformis syndrome, a condition that affects the piriformis muscles in the lower portion of the spine. The piriformis muscles can become tight and squeeze the sciatic nerve, causing sciatica.
- Physical injuries to the spine, such as those caused by repetitive motions of a specific region of the spine.
- Obesity, as the additional weight on the body can press down on spinal nerves.
- Compression of the spine, which in itself can lead to disc herniations and contribute to nerve pinching as an underlying cause.
Pinched Nerve Treatment Options
In some cases, pinched nerves resolve on their own without the need for direct intervention from the patient. For example, if a herniated disc is the source of the problem, when the disc heals on its own, many times the patients find out that uncomfortable symptoms have also disappeared.
There are also cases in which pinched nerves either refuse to resolve on their own, or they impair one’s ability to carry out even simple tasks on a day to day basis. To reduce pain, stiffness and other symptoms, or even to get rid of them completely, one or more of the following trapped nerve remedies can be employed:
- Rest from activities that may worsen the pain. In the case of repetitive strain on the back, taking a break from such activities can allow the back to heal.
- Applying an ice pack or a heating pad to the painful area to reduce inflammation or swelling (if present) is one of the common nerve pain remedies that
- Physical therapy, which can help with spinal mobilisation and increase the chances of freeing a trapped nerve.
- Spinal decompression therapy, a new and revolutionary treatment form for back problems which stretches and massages the spine and allows the spine components to gradually shift back into their original anatomical position.
Spinal decompression therapy can be performed from the comfort of one’s home with the help of a simple, yet highly effective device called the Backrack.
Backrack Spinal Decompression Device
Why Spinal Decompression Therapy
As previously stated, compression of the spine can lead to spinal problems such as herniated discs, which can then lead to pinched nerves. That is because, in essence, compression of the spine consists of the spine being pressed down, squashing any structures in-between.
Compression of the spine can persist for long periods of time, and rarely gets better on its own. That is why using a treatment method that reverses that process and stretches the spine back to its original shape and length is beneficial for long-term pain relief. That treatment is spinal decompression therapy.