At-Home Treatments for Pinched Nerves
A pinched nerve occurs when anatomical structures in its immediate vicinity encroach upon the nerve. In other words, the nerve becomes compressed by obstructions such as bones, tendons, muscles, or cartilage. The application of too much pressure subsequently interferes with that particular nerve’s ability to function. This translates to pain, numbness, and uncomfortable symptoms for the patient.
This situation can occur in different parts of the body although it mainly affects the back or neck. And, although this condition can be remedied by proper rest including sleep hygiene and massage, sometimes, nothing short of a visit to the orthopedic surgeon will provide comfort.
Damage caused by a pinched nerve can be transient in its duration or long-lasting. And while doctors can’t fully cure this condition in some patients, the right treatment will alleviate pinched nerve pain.
Symptoms of Pinched Nerves
This condition usually comes with a number of symptoms which signal to its presence. The most common sign of its occurrence, however, is the presence of pain. Other signs and symptoms that herald the occurrence of a pinched nerve include:
- A decline in sensitivity and feeling of numbness in the area controlled by the pinched nerve
- Paresthesia (or a pins-and-needles tingling sensation) in the limbs
- Tingling in the area of the pinched nerve
- A feeling of fatigue when performing certain activities
- Radiating pain which can feel sharp, aching, or burning
- The feeling that a limb is unresponsive or has fallen asleep
Some of the symptoms listed above can worsen when you attempt to move certain parts of your body such as your head or neck. These symptoms can also intensify at night while you attempt to sleep.
Causes of Pinched Nerves
There are several orthopedic causes that can lead to a pinched nerve. For example, one of the most common precipitating factors is poor posture. The following list includes other circumstances that can lead to a pinched nerve:
- Participating in an occupation or activity that involves making repetitive motions
- Maintaining a particular position for long periods of time (e.g. sleeping with your elbows bent)
- Becoming obese or overweight
- Engaging in sporting activities
- Sustaining an injury
- Developing osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
You will often find that pinched nerves occur in parts of the body that lack soft tissues to cushion the nerves. For instance, pinched nerves often occur near foramina (narrow openings in vertebrae through which nerves radiate outward). Such an occurrence can cause pain to develop in the neck or lower back. If the pain spreads outward from the neck region and into the shoulder or arm, doctors call this condition “cervical radiculopathy.” If the pain radiates from the lower back and into the leg or foot, then doctors term this condition “lumbar radiculopathy” or sciatica.”
Likewise, a pinched nerve can develop from the occurrence of changes in spinal discs, such as a disc’s tearing. Doctors refer to this condition more commonly as a “herniated” or “ruptured” disc.
Treating Pinched Nerves at Home
There are several ways to arrest a pinched nerve situation. Some of these are simple treatments that you can attempt within the confines of your home. The particular remedy you use should depend on the area of the body where the pinched nerve occurs and the underlying cause. Likewise, the time it takes to fully eradicate symptoms will vary depending on the individual. The following are some ways that you can address pinched nerves at home:
1. Improve your posture.
One of the many causes of pinched nerves is poor posture. This means that you can often remedy a pinched nerve by simply adjusting your posture throughout the day. The use of neck rests, cushions, and pillows will assist you in achieving a neutral spine position. This ideal position decompresses spinal nerves and may even lead to a resolution of your pain.
2. Get more rest and better sleep.
Another way that you can treat pinched nerves at home is to achieve longer and more restful sleep. The body undergoes a process of cellular repair while we sleep. This, combined with resting the affected nerve from strenuous activities, will encourage healing.
3. Perform routine stretching.
Performing regular stretching activities, such as yoga exercises, can also soothe pinched nerves. You should do your best to ensure you are not overdoing it, however. If you attempt to do too much too soon, you may actually worsen your condition. If you experience discomfort while stretching, you are advised to stop and immediately consult your doctor.
4. Use medications as prescribed or needed.
Certain medications are also useful in treating pinched nerves. Medications such as ibuprofen, which is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), can eliminate your pain and swelling. In some cases, a reduction in inflammation can also put an abrupt end to nerve compression.
5. Test out ergonomic aids.
Consider switching to ergonomic office equipment to improve your workday posture. An ergonomic mouse and keyboard will result in less pressure being exerted on the wrists. Also, adjusting the position of your computer screen to eye-level will reduce the need to incline your neck. This will reduce muscular strain on your neck and alleviate any pinching..
6. See a massage therapist.
Massaging the affected area and its surrounding structures can relax muscles and pinched nerves. As the tension releases, you may also find that your pinched nerve vanishes.
7. Lose weight.
Remember to keep your BMI within the normal range, even if this means adjusting your eating and exercising habits. Overweight individuals are more prone to a host of orthopedic issues, including pinched nerves and osteoarthritis.
8. Apply ice & heat to the affected area.
Applying ice to the affected area will help to alleviate local inflammation, whereas heat application will improve blood flow to the region. Blood carries essential components associated with healing, which can speed the recovery process from a pinched nerve.
If you do not find relief by using the methods above, then seek out the services of a board-certified orthopedic surgeon. When conservative methods fail to deliver relief, you may need surgery. The purpose of surgery for pinched nerves to ease the pressure on the nerve and as such, put an end to it. The surgery that your doctor performs, however, will depend on the nerve that is being compressed.
The mere occurrence of a pinched nerve is more or less a warning. And if it persists past a couple of days and defies all treatment, it can result in severe damages. If you observe the following symptoms, then, you should immediately see a doctor.
- Sudden paralysis or muscular weakness in your limbs
- Bladder or bowel incontinence
- Numbness in the saddle region (the rectum, inner thighs, and buttocks)
Enlisting the help of an orthopedic surgeon will allow you to determine the best course of treatment for you. For example, if your doctor diagnoses you with a herniated disc, then you may need to undergo an artificial disc replacement. This surgery involves the removal and replacement of the herniated disc with an artificial model. Other surgeries that individuals with pinched nerves undergo include laminotomies and foraminotomies. Both of these surgeries involve removing sections of bone in order to create more room for pinched nerves.
A laminectomy, for example, involves the removal of a part of the lamina, or the backside of a vertebra. A type of decompression procedure, this technique releases pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. Such pressure might be a consequence of an injury, herniated discs, or even tumors.
A foraminotomy is also a decompression procedure. Your surgeon will perform this particular technique to widen the foramina, permitting the nerves to pass through unfettered.
Do you have a pinched nerve that requires intervention? If so, you don’t have to suffer any longer. Let a seasoned orthopedic team with over 20 years of clinical experience handle your case. Contact our pinched nerve doctors at Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery and rest assured that your recovery is in good hands!