Pinched nerves in the neck, back, or anywhere on the body are the cause of significant, constant pain for millions of people in the United States each year. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, compression of a nerve by surrounding tissues, including muscles and bones, may cause damage and prevent the proper communicative function of the nerve.
Many people report around-the-clock pain when nerve damage and radiating pain occur. Sleep interruption and restlessness are likely to result from constant pain and suffering. Because sleep is essential to the body’s healing process, sleep interruption is a serious problem. For this reason, pain management is one of the first steps to promoting healing.
The causes of pinched nerves are quite varied:
- A pinched nerve may happen as a result of a disease process. For example, many people develop pinched nerves in the neck as a result of arthritis (or bones spurs which form as a result of inflammatory arthritis) or herniated discs, a rupture of a spinal disc located between the vertebrae. Gelatinous material from the rupture can begin to press against nerves and pain results.
- According to “Choose to Live” author Joyce O’Brien, late-stage cancers can also cause extremely painful nerve compression.
- “Golf After Fifty” reports that older golfers have a higher incidence of nerve pain near the joints.
- Neck trauma is one of the reasons people suffer from herniated disks, but medical researchers say it’s not always possible to determine why some discs rupture. Spinal stenosis, a serious chronic condition, can also cause pinched nerves in the back. The spinal canals in bones along the spine create pressure on one or more nerves.
- Runners who develop sciatica or tennis players who experience “frozen shoulder” have sports-induced pinched nerves.
Thankfully, many people with pinched nerves can get relief and eventually recover from this condition. While patients can contribute to the detection of the condition, a physician must evaluate and diagnose patients before steps can be taken to provide freedom from pain and healing.
Unrelenting pain is the most common symptom cited by people suffering from a pinched nerve. Muscle weakness, or sensations of prickly “pins and needles” can also presage the ailment. Numbness, stiffness, or a pain that radiates from the location of the damaged nerve can also warrant a doctor’s attention.
Patients with concerns about pinched nerves should contact a doctor as soon as possible in order to obtain a diagnosis. The physician begins by asking questions about what the patient is experiencing, so it’s a good idea to bring notes to the visit. For instance, the doctor is likely to ask about symptoms or where the pain, tingling, or numbness is occurring. Of course, plan to tell the doctor about how long the pain and symptoms have been bothering you. If a specific body movement or position triggers pain, it’s important to let the doctor know. For example, some patients experience extreme pain only when seated. The may test muscle strength as well as sensation during the physical exam.
As always, tell the doctor about any confirmed medical problems and medications (including over-the-counter preparations) you take.
In some cases, the doctor will recommend additional testing such as x-rays to identify arthritis or spinal injury. Severe pain and other symptoms may prompt the doctor to order image tests such as a CT scan and/or MRI. These tests help the doctor obtain more information about damaged nerves as he or she determines if surgical intervention is required. In some cases, nerve conduction studies may be ordered to identify the affected nerve or nerves. EMG (electromyography) testing may also be ordered to learn if nerve damage is affecting muscle function.
Pinched Nerve Pain
Because pinched nerves are often so excruciatingly painful, the doctor is likely to prescribe pain medication even before physical therapy or surgery is performed in the most severe cases. 911 BioCare Centers works with doctors and their patients as part of the process. Patients in constant pain want relief, and that is the top priority!