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Pinched Nerve: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

The brain controls all the voluntary and involuntary actions of our body. For example, muscles in our body contract, relax or move after receiving a command from the brain, our heart beats faster or slower depending on the brain's command and even sensory organs like eyes, nose, fingers, ears are under the brain's control [1] . But how do they receive those commands/messages from the brain?

Nerves or nerve cells are distributed entirely in our body and serve the purpose of sending and receiving information from the brain to other body parts and vice-versa. The information related to pain, temperature, taste, or other sensations are also included [2] . In this way, the brain recognises which part of the body needs attention.

A pinched nerve is a condition caused when a nerve in a certain area of the body gets damaged or injured due to compression or pressure by the surrounding tissues or by external factors like an accident. In medical terms, it is known as nerve entrapment or nerve compression. Common places for a pinched nerve are wrist, lower spine, elbow, and fingers. When a nerve remains pinched for a longer period, it can cause chronic pain and permanent damage to a body part or tissues around the area.

Symptoms Of Pinched Nerve

The symptoms of a pinched nerve are as follows:

  • Numbness
  • Redness or inflammation
  • Paresthesia sensation (like tingling or burning, or prickling)
  • Weakness of muscles
  • Sharp pain in the affected area
  • Worsening pain while moving the affected area [3] .

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What Causes Pinched Nerve

The main causes of a pinched nerve are as follows:

  • Herniated spinal disc (lower back) [4]
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (wrist)
  • Radial nerve compression (forearms)
  • Ulnar nerve compression (arm)
  • Radial tunnel syndrome (elbow)
  • Swelling around the nerves due to certain injury or bruises.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis [5]
  • Physical activities or sports activities
  • Obesity
  • Work stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Tumour [6]
  • Genetics
  • Diabetes [7]

Diagnosis Of Pinched Nerve

The condition can be diagnosed through the following tests.

  • MRI
  • Electromyography
  • CT scan [8]
  • Ultrasound
  • X-ray
  • Nerve conduction tests [9] .

Treatment Of Pinched Nerve

When a person develops a pinched nerve, first a conservative therapy is used to reduce the pain of the affected area and improve its function. The treatment of a pinched nerve are as follows:

  • Rest the affected area and allow it to heal
  • Apply heat or ice until the sensation of pain decreases
  • Lose weight
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce nerve inflammation [10]
  • Use splint
  • Corticosteroid injections [11]
  • Physical therapy for strengthening or stretching the muscles
  • Surgery, in severe cases.

People At Risk Of Pinched Nerve

  • Women are at higher risk of carpal tunnel syndrome [12]
  • A person whose job involves certain repetitive movements
  • Adults above 30
  • Medical conditions that can impact nerve function

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How To Prevent Pinched Nerve

  • Minimize repetitive movements or avoid them.
  • Don't lie in one position for a long time.
  • Perform a regular exercise which must include stretching and muscle strengthening exercises.
  • Take breaks from continuous work.
  • Lose weight.
  • Check your lying position before sleeping.
View Article References
  1. [1] 1. Ackerman, S. (1992).Discovering the brain. National Academies Press.
  2. [2] 2. Ludwig, P. E., & Varacallo, M. (2018). Neuroanatomy, Neurons. InStatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.
  3. [3] 3. Thatte, M. R., & Mansukhani, K. A. (2011). Compressive neuropathy in the upper limb.Indian journal of plastic surgery : official publication of the Association of Plastic Surgeons of India,44(2), 283–297. doi:10.4103/0970-0358.85350
  4. [4] 4. Dulebohn, S. C., Massa, R. N., & Mesfin, F. B. (2019). Disc Herniation. InStatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.
  5. [5] 5. Piton, J. L., Vila, A., Servais, B., Stoebner, P., Cabanel, G., & Phelip, X. (1983). Muscles and nerves in rheumatoid arthritis.Revue du rhumatisme et des maladies osteo-articulaires,50(10), 643-651.
  6. [6] 6. Koes, B. W., van Tulder, M. W., & Peul, W. C. (2007). Diagnosis and treatment of sciatica.BMJ (Clinical research ed.),334(7607), 1313–1317. doi:10.1136/bmj.39223.428495.BE
  7. [7] 7. Bansal, V., Kalita, J., & Misra, U. K. (2006). Diabetic neuropathy.Postgraduate medical journal,82(964), 95–100. doi:10.1136/pgmj.2005.036137
  8. [8] 8. Mackinnon, S. E. (2002). Pathophysiology of nerve compression.Hand clinics,18(2), 231-241.
  9. [9] 9. Hochman, M. G., & Zilberfarb, J. L. (2004). Nerves in a pinch: imaging of nerve compression syndromes.Radiologic Clinics,42(1), 221-245.
  10. [10] 10. Sommer, C., Leinders, M., & Üçeyler, N. (2018). Inflammation in the pathophysiology of neuropathic pain.Pain,159(3), 595-602.
  11. [11] vers, S., Bryan, A. J., Sanders, T. L., Gunderson, T., Gelfman, R., & Amadio, P. C. (2017). Corticosteroid Injections for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Long-Term Follow-Up in a Population-Based Cohort.Plastic and reconstructive surgery,140(2), 338–347. doi:10.1097/PRS.0000000000003511
  12. [12] 12. Buchanan, B. K., & Varacallo, M. (2018). Radial Nerve Entrapment. InStatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.
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