A compressed or trapped nerve is a condition where enhanced pressure causes nerve damage or irritation to a peripheral nerve. It results in uncomfortable sensations such as pain and numbness in the affected region of the back, neck, or shoulders. When a cervical nerve (located in the cervical spine) is affected, it is also referred to as cervical radiculopathy.
Any factors which can aggravate pressure around the cervical region can cause nerve compression. Common reasons include body positioning or bad posture, for example wrong way of crossing legs habitually, leaning frequently on elbows and other poor postures. With the passage of time, it leads to pressure injuries and damage to nerves in these body parts.
It is a condition in which the inner jelly-like the material of intervertebral discs comes out of the outer ring. A herniated disc can place pressure on the spinal nerve roots which result in nerve pain or discomfort.
Obesity or Water Retention
Both conditions lead to the exertion of extra pressure to the vertebral column and the risk of developing a compressed nerve is increased. Thyroid disease, specifically hypothyroidism, leads to both obesity and water retention and such people are more prone to develop compressed nerve condition.
Repetitive activities that strain the back, such as frequent use of mobile devices, typing, and use of certain tools also cause inflammation around nerves and result in symptoms of compressed nerves.
Causes of Compressed Nerve in the Spine
In addition to the risk factors mentioned above, there are certain conditions that can lead to compression of nerve roots.
Some of the most common causes of compressed or pinched nerves, whether it affects the cervical spine, thoracic spine or lumbar spine, tend to include:
- Trauma or injury, for example from a fall, which causes pressure on one or more nerve roots.
- Spinal stenosis, including foraminal stenosis, which lessens the space available for nerves to pass through gaps between vertebrae.
- Mechanical stretching that pulled too much on a particular region of the spine.
- Formation of bone spurs, which can also decrease the available space for nerve roots.
- Spondylolisthesis, a condition where one vertebral body is displaced.
- Disc degeneration.
- Bulging or herniated disk.
- Spinal compression.
Symptoms of a Compressed Nerve
There may be many signs and symptoms you may experience in your body, but the common ones include:
It is a type of pain which happens due to the compression of the sciatic nerve. Pain is felt in the lumbar spine (lower back), radiating to the saddle area and one or both legs. You may also feel numbness and tingling sensations in these areas.
Muscle Spasms and Loss of Reflexes
Muscle spasms and loss of reflexes can also be experienced if a nerve is pinched. Loss of reflexes happens because when the nerve is being compressed, its function is affected. Both back and neck muscles can become spasmatic.
It is a common occurrence to feel a sharp pain in the affected region of the back, arms, legs, and feet if you have a compressed nerve. Sometimes the pain is mild to moderate but sometimes it is so severe that it interferes with daily activities and is difficult to tolerate.
Since with the compression of the nerve, the nerve function is also lost, weakness is also felt in the distribution area of the nerve.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Before proceeding with any kind of treatment it is best to seek a diagnosis and identify the cause of your symptoms. Your doctor can make a final diagnosis of your condition by taking a history and performing a general physical examination. If necessary, your doctor may suggest you undergo some additional diagnostic tests which can include and X-Ray, CT Scan, or MRI to know the underlying pathology of the vertebral column.
Once the cause is known, you may proceed to the treatment phase. Some options include using pain relievers such as NSAIDs or injections, but they can also consist of less invasive approaches such as:
Making specific lifestyle modifications can help lessen the symptoms of a compressed nerve. Some of them include getting to or maintaining a healthy weight, giving up smoking and becoming more active.
There are some seated positions and activities that cause twisting of your back and can thus worsen your symptoms. Additionally, it is recommended that you avoid lengthy periods of rest, as they can also worsen your pain. It is best that you rest for two or three days at most, ensuring you don’t engage in any physical activities that may place pressure on your spine.
Ice and Heat Therapy
They are both very useful measures to reduce your symptoms. You can apply hot or cold fomentation on the affected region for twenty minutes. Heat causes enhancement of blood flow to the affected region and thus you feel a decrease in pain levels.
Cold therapy on the other hand tends to reduce inflammation and swelling and it also helps reduce your symptoms.
You can use a hot water bottle as a hot compress and a pack of ice wrapped in a towel as a cold compress. Remember not to apply a hot or cold compressor directly to the skin, otherwise it will damage your skin.
Exercising regularly will help avoid an of onset of nerve pain and lessen your symptoms. However, make sure that the exercises you perform don’t aggravate existing symptoms.
Sleeping Position Alteration
If you tend to sleep in an unfavourable position for your back, you may notice that will trigger your nerve pain. It is better to sleep on your side while keeping a pillow between your knees. Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach.
Spinal Decompression Treatment
Most cases of nerve compression can be attributed to compression of the spine itself. The spine can become compressed due to pressure that is applied to it over time. As such, it is pressed down, and it also tend to press down on nerve roots, pinching them. Thus, in order to relieve pain caused by compression of the spine, it is best to reverse this process through spinal decompression therapy, a treatment modality that you can apply onto your spine from your own home with the help of a special device called the Backrack.
Backrack Spinal Decompression Device
Author: Spinal Backrack