Also called a pinched nerve, nerve compression is the underlying cause behind such conditions as lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and sciatica. You can usually avoid permanent damage through early treatment, so care from the experts of The Spine Center of Baton Rouge, located in Baton Rouge, Walker, and Prairieville, Louisiana is your best protection. Call or schedule an appointment online today.
Any time the normal conditions of the body change and impede on the space normally reserved for nerve tissue, compression of that nerve may occur. It may be due to swelling of surrounding tissue, as with some repetitive strain injuries, or damage to tissue, such as with herniated discs. Bone spurs are often a culprit, as are irritated tendons, cartilage or muscle.
Often, the pain or sensation created by the compressed nerve isn’t felt at the location of the compression itself, but rather somewhere along the nerve’s path, after the point of compression. Compression of the sciatic nerve, for example, may send sensations of tingling, numbness, or pain down one leg, though the compressed point is usually in the lower back.
As well as pain, compressed nerves may contribute to weakness in the arms, hands, legs, and feet, depending on where the nerve compression occurs. Other common sensations include tingling or numbness, and even burning sensations are possible.
These sensations may be constant, and sometimes they’ll intensify if you move a certain way or attempt a particular activity. Pain may then have an electric shock sensation. Pain from compressed nerves may intensify overnight as you sleep. For instance, the wrists flex and frequently extend during sleep, which may aggravate the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Perhaps the most common treatment for compressed nerves is resting the affected area. This is particularly effective when the cause of the nerve compression relates to repetitive motion. This may also be aided using immobilizing splints or braces to stabilize the area around the compression.
Treatment with medication typically uses nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers including ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. As well as providing pain relief, the anti-inflammatory properties may reduce swelling around the site of the nerve compression.
Physical therapy involves stretches and exercises designed to relieve irritation around the nerve compressions. You may be advised to discontinue or modify certain movements that contribute to nerve compression.
Surgery is usually a last resort treatment. Surgery typically takes the form of an intervention that provides more room for the nerve, to release the compression. The procedure depends on where and how the nerve is compressed. Spinal fusion, for example, may remove a herniated disc that presses on a nerve, while severing the carpal ligament may relieve compression of the median nerve in the wrist.