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Pinched Nerve

Pinched Nerve

A pinched nerve is a form of injury to a nerve or group of nerves, which can be caused due to compression or stretching. This article provides some information about the condition, its symptoms, treatment, and preventive measures.
Buzzle Staff
Pinched nerve is a term which describes a form of damage or injury to a single nerve or set of nerves. This injury could occur due to compression, stretching, or constriction. Furthermore, it could occur at any location in our body.
When excessive pressure is applied by the surrounding tissues to a nerve then it can be pinched. This tissue can be a bone or cartilage, for example in case of herniated spinal disc, it compresses the nerve ending. Sometimes muscles or tendons being the surrounding tissue, exert pressure. For example, in case of carpal tunnel syndrome a variety of tissues like muscles and tendons exert pressure which results in median nerve, including inflammation of tendon sheath which results in narrowing of tunnel by thickening of bone or ligament degeneration.
The Central Nervous System of human body plays a premier role in neurological functions. It consists of brain, spinal cord, and network of nerves, which are extensions from the brain and travel to every part of the body, organ, muscles, bones, ligaments, skin, etc. Anatomically, a neuron is a microscopic structure with its fibers running a great length towards its destination. The group of neurons that are located in the brain or in the spinal cord are commonly known as central nerves, while the nerves which run from the spinal cord to other destinations like arms, legs, different organs, skin, and vice versa are recognized as peripheral nerves. This is actually a group of numerous neuron fibers that travel from the spinal cord and branch to their target destination where the functions like action and sensation are carried out by means of signals.
So, in case of peripheral nerves, it is like a bundle of many fibers encased within an outer sheath. Static electrical ions travel on this sheath from CNS towards the destination and vice versa. Inside the sheath, neuron fluid is present which nourishes the components of the outer membrane. If any nerve is pinched then the flow of this neuron fluid gets blocked or reduced which eventually results in degeneration of membrane. The outer membrane starts losing its ability to carry electrical charges, which hampers the main function of any neuron.
Symptoms
There are a number of noticeable symptoms. One could feel a lack of sensation which is also known as numbness in a particular location where the nerve has been affected. Sometimes, one may experience a sharp pain which radiates outward. If the location is in the spinal cord then involuntary actions like sneezing or coughing aggravate the pain. In some cases, one may feel that their foot or hand has become numb (fallen asleep). Sometimes, paresthesias or a tinkling and prickling sensation is noticed which is also commonly known as pins and needles.
Causes
A pinched nerve develops due to its compression by the surrounding tissues. There are numerous reasons responsible to compress a nerve by such tissues. Poor posture, injury, obesity, adventurous hobbies, sports activities, mental and physical stress after performing a repetitive job and in some cases, osteoarthritis are the most common reasons. The pressure exerted due to all these factors disrupts the neuron functions and causes its inflammation. If the condition remains for a shorter span, then there would be no permanent injury because the nerve would return to its normal functioning once the pressure gets released. However, if the condition remains for a longer time, there would be a risk of permanent damage. Sometimes, people are genetically prone to such conditions which can result to a "pinched" state of the nerves.
Diagnosis
The foremost diagnosis is done on the basis of information provided by the affected person. There are few tests which can be carried out by physicians.
1. Nerve Conduction Study is a test which can identify and confirm the existence of the damaged nerve. A test, also known as a nerve conduction velocity test, includes placing of patch-like electrodes to stimulate the suspected nerve with mild electrical shock.
2. Electromyography measures the electrical discharges. This test includes inserting of thin needle electrode to record electric discharges in muscle.
3. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is conducted by physicians to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment
Rest for the affected area is the premier recommended treatment. Any activities that aggravate the compression of nerve should be avoided. Help of splint or braces is taken to immobilize the affected area. Physical therapy often makes a supplementary part of such treatments. It aims at strengthening and stretching the muscles in the affected area by doing gradual exercises. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen can help as painkillers and reduce the inflammation. Corticosteroid injections are introduced to lessen the pain and inflammation. In very rare cases, minor surgery may be required to release the pressure.
The agony of pinched nerve can be prevented by maintaining a good posture, healthy weight, and incorporating flexibility and muscle strength by regular exercises.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.