A “Pinched Nerve” is a simple term to describe what’s called radiculopathy. If you’ve been diagnosed with a pinched nerve by your doctor, the first and most important step to recovery is to determine what causes a pinched nerve.
The term pinched nerve makes the problem sound simple, there’s a nerve that’s being pinched by something else (maybe your spine) and causing nerve symptoms like pain (the most common.) Sometimes your doctor may use the analogy of a garden hose with a kink.
The garden hose analogy of a pinched nerve explains the problem by telling you to imagine a hose with water running through it. If you kinked the hose, it would stop the water flow. If you kink a nerve, it can disrupt the flow of nerve function and cause pain, weakness, tingling, and numbness.
I’ll be honest, I don’t like this analogy at all. It’s way too simple and not accurate when explaining the cause of a pinched nerve. In this content, I’ll explain what the most common causes of pinched nerves are and how to get relief from a pinched nerve.
Pinched Nerve Causes
Pinched nerves are can be really painful, and it’s not always clear right away what’s causing a pinched nerve, but there are a few common causes. Let’s look at some of the common causes of pinched nerves, these apply to both pinched nerves in the neck and in the back.
Inflammatory compression: If you’ve recently injured your neck or back and afterward noticed radiating nerve pain from a pinched nerve, it could be because of inflamed tissues near the root of the nerve. An injury can cause muscle and ligament damage as well as nerve inflammation from compression or tension of the nerve.
Nerve entrapment: Nerves can become entrapped underneath a muscle or between a muscle and a joint which can cause pinched nerve symptoms. If you’ve got a pinched nerve, this is a desirable cause because they are simpler to treat and you can usually recover in less time.
Bulging or herniated lumbar or cervical disc: Obviously this is not something you want to have, but nonetheless, is a fairly common cause of pinched nerves. A herniated or bulging spinal disc puts can abut against a spinal nerve root, and it also produces a lot of inflammation in the area that irritates or pinches the nerve.
This image shows what’s called a nerve root impingement from a disc problem. What you can’t see in this picture are all of the inflammatory substances that are produced when this happens and lead to a lot of pain.
A pinched lumbar nerve that causes pain down the back of your leg is called sciatica. Here’s a study that shows chiropractic manipulation for lumbar disc herniations and sciatica relieved pain better than a control –> Chiropractic care for back pain, disc protrusion, and pinched nerve
Spinal stenosis of the lumbar or cervical spine: Spinal stenosis is a condition where bone spurs from inside your spinal canal or where the spinal nerves exit your spinal canal. This condition typically only happens in older patients.
Remember, these are only the most common causes. There are other reasons for a pinched nerve, but you’re condition probably falls into one of these categories. Now that we know the causes of a pinched nerve, let’s talk briefly about what you should do for a pinched nerve.
Pinched Nerve Treatment
There are a number of different healthcare providers who can treat a pinched nerve. Chiropractic treatment for a pinched nerve is a great option, and you can even get chiropractic and medical treatment at the same time if you’re having significant pain from your pinched nerve. Physical therapy may also help relieve pain from a pinched nerve. Some of the treatments that chiropractors use for a pinched nerve are:
- Spinal manipulation – Spinal manipulation can restore movement in areas of your spine that are stiff and contributing to pinched nerve symptoms.
- Dry needling and acupuncture – Dry needling and acupuncture can release tight muscles that may be entrapping the nerve and are treatments that relieve pinched nerve pain effectively.
- Stretches and corrective exercises – Stretching tight muscles, flossing the pinched nerve to free it up, and corrective exercises to address the cause of the pinched nerve are important and necessary in the treatment of this condition.
Medical treatment usually involves oral steroid and muscle relaxer medications and may involve steroid injections. If you’re looking to fix the cause of a pinched nerve and avoid medication, shots, and surgery chiropractic treatment is a great option.
Dr. Jason Williams DC is a chiropractic physician practicing at AccessHealth Chiropractic in Cary, NC. He treats neuromusculoskeletal pain and injuries using chiropractic manipulation, dry needling, acupuncture, rehab exercise strategies, and other supportive therapies. Primary areas of focus include back pain, neck pain, muscular pain, extremity pain, and orthopedic injuries. Dr. Williams is experienced in treating athletes, especially those in the CrossFit, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and MMA community.
If you’re interested in whether he or another AccessHealth provider can help you, navigate to our contact page or follow this link to request an appointment.