Our body houses a complex network of nerves and tissues that are interconnected. Any injury or damage to any organ or nerve causes pain that may be mild or severe. Many a time, sensations like numbness, tingling or burning can be felt in different parts of the body, more specifically in the feet, arms and neck. This tingling and numbness in most cases will not last for a long time. It will fade as you ease out that part of the body, for example, when you stretch the cramped leg or hand. Most of us will not give thought to the underlying root cause of it, as in maximum cases this numbness fades away in a few minutes.
Here we will discuss the most common cause of numbness and tingling that is a pinched nerve. The basics are the same like any injury to the nerve, here the injury can be related to a damaged nerve. So what exactly is a pinched or pressured nerve. To define in medical terms, it can be described as, injury that takes place due to the compression, pressure or even due to stretching and entrapment of a single nerve or a group of nerves. These are basically nerves that communicate signals to the brain and play a vital role in muscle function.
The common cause being pressure on the nerve and any organ, tissue or bone can lead to a pressured nerve. Any outgrowth, tumor, bone spur, herniated disc can also cause nerve damage and numbness. Simple activities like sitting or standing for a long time in the same position, sitting in cramped spaces, improper clothing, sudden movement or jerk in the joints can cause a pinched nerve. Sports and other similar activities can cause strain and pressure on the nerves.
Some of the major causes are listed below.
- Most of the pressured nerve cases will be related to spine and neck conditions. Certain spinal disorders like herniated disc can be the issue, the nerve gets compressed or pinched right in the root.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome is another major cause. This gives room for other disorders like swelling of tendon sheaths in the tunnel, enlargement of the bones and ligaments, that block or narrow the space in the tunnel.
- Degeneration of the disc, bulging or thinning of the disc can cause nerve pinching. Osteoporosis and arthritis too can cause the nerves emerging in the spinal cord to be pinched.
- Tumors of the tissues or nerves, and other surrounding organs can be the cause. Others like any external trauma or injury to the organs or a fracture of the bone that creates pressure on the nerves can be a cause.
When pressure is created on nerves, it disrupts the signals that they carry to the brain and other parts of the body. The symptoms will vary with the location of the injured nerve. But numbness is the main symptom, it may sometimes be accompanied with tingling and weakness in that area. It can be described more like, a loss of sensation or feeling to the particular area. Some of the other symptoms are weakness and pin like or needle like sensations in the body.
Numbness is particularly dominant in areas of the arms, legs and fingers. Nerve numbness in face or hands, will typically be caused due to impingement of the nerves that specially support muscle movement and function in the face and hands. Numbness due to injured nerve is usually due to an internal damage and there is a possibility of a disorder. Some of the other symptoms are body pain, inability to control urine, loss of balance and control, etc. Numbness should not be mistaken with paralysis, as numbness is just loss of sensation and paralysis is more to do with loss of movement.
Sudden numbness once in a while related to external stress factors can be treated with stretching or massaging that part of the body at home. But if the numbness is repeated, and occurs at frequent intervals, it means there is damage to the nerves and needs immediate diagnosis and treatment.
After the doctor conducts diagnosis, the treatment can be prescribed depending on the underlying cause. Diagnosis usually includes tests to check a damaged nerve like nerve conduction, electromyography and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). The typical treatment will consist of a combination of therapies, exercises and medicines. Some common treatment options are anti-inflammatory drugs, exercises and physical therapies like - yoga, acupuncture, massage, etc.
Medications to tackle pain and the symptoms like corticosteroid injections and others are also prescribed. In severe cases the doctor may advise surgery to treat the entrapped nerve. There are certain factors that can help in easing the pain at home too. A warm compress and stretching the affected area of muscles is a good remedy. A complete evaluation or study of the work lifestyle and making necessary changes to maximize comfort to the body, can also be carried out to see if it shows any improvement.
Pinched nerve numbness may lead to severe risks if neglected. So any numbness and similar symptoms that do not recede even after sometime of changing posture and other home remedies, make sure you get this checked from a health expert. Issues like numbness and tingling due to a damaged nerve must be tackled well to ensure effective nerve and body functioning.