Anybody who has ever been diagnosed with a pinched nerve knows how painful the condition can be.
A pinched nerve describes any situation in which a nerve is being compressed. This can be caused by a number of different things, ranging from a repetitive stress injury, staying in a single position for too long, or anything else that causes a narrowing of the area through which the nerve passes. A simple muscle sprain or strain can lead to swelling that compresses the nerve.
Because pinched nerves can be caused by anything from inflammation to a ruptured disc, there is a wide range of treatment options available, including rest, medication and surgery. Though many people opt for taking a wait and see approach to see if the pain goes away, eventually you may need to take action.
When compression of a nerve goes on for too long, its essential components are at risk for breaking down, or other peripheral damage can occur. This can lead to swelling, scarring, and increased pressure that creates even more pain.
The symptoms of a pinched nerve include:
- Pain that remains local or radiates down the hip or leg
- Numbness or a pins and needles sensation
- The inability to turn your head or stretch your neck
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important that you don’t let it go on for too long. Resting for a day or two, taking over the counter medications, and using ice or heat are only acceptable for a short period of time: after that you need to seek out the help of a physician, who may need to take actions to ease inflammation and swelling.
Diagnosis of a pinched nerve should be done by an experienced, qualified spine specialist who will take the time to ask in-depth questions about how the injury arose and what symptoms are you are experiencing. Your physician will also conduct a physical examination that includes determining whether certain movements cause pain and to what extent your mobility is limited.
The doctor may also order imaging studies such as an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging in order to figure out exactly what type of injury you have suffered and what tissues or structures are involved.
Armed with an informed diagnosis, a personalized treatment plan will be created for you.
These may include a variety of non-invasive, conservative treatments, including:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain and swelling
- Oral corticosteroids to relieve pain and swelling
- Injections of anesthetics and steroids to relieve pain and swelling
- Narcotics to ease severe pain
- Physical therapy to stretch and strengthen muscles
- Restrictive collar or splint to restrict movement
In some cases, surgery may be prescribed in order to remove bone fragments, scar tissue, or sections of a herniated disc that are putting pressure on the nerve.
Getting a diagnosis is the first step to relieving your pain and returning you to your normal activities. To set up an appointment with our spine practice, contact us today.