A pinched nerve occurs when pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues, such as bones, cartilage, muscles, or tendons, causing tingling numbness, pins & needles (paranesthesia), a sharp, aching or burning pain, muscle weakness with radiating pain. There is usually no permanent damage if the nerve is compressed for a short duration. Chronic pain with permanent nerve damage can occur if the nerve compression continues.
The symptoms felt by the patient depend on the location of the nerve. A herniated disk in the lower spine exerts pressure on a nerve root that leads to radiating pain in the lower limb. Or, a pinched nerve in the wrist can lead to pain and numbness in the hand and fingers, which is commonly known as “carpal tunnel syndrome”.
Compression or pinching of the nerve can occur due to:
- Formation of bone spurs
- Stress from repetitive actions in sports activities
- Obesity, diabetes, or thyroid disease
- Pregnancy or prolonged bed rest
- Autoimmune disease like Rheumatoid arthritis
The condition is diagnosed using nerve conduction studies or electromyography. MRIs or ultrasonography can be used to determine the cause of the compression. Splints and braces are required to immobilize and rest the area, followed by physical therapy to relieve the pressure on the nerve. Pain relievers or corticosteroid injections at the site are used to decrease symptoms. Chronic compression may require surgery.
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