Do you have numbness in the shoulder or perhaps pain or tingling down the leg? Some of you, I’m sure, will immediately know what I mean. At times we all experience aches and pains, but when a tingling sensation or numbness accompany them, could it be a sign of something more serious, perhaps a pinched nerve?
A pinched nerve can be very worrying for many people, and I’d like to throw some light on the subject.
So what causes a pinched or trapped nerve?
Pinched nerves are usually diagnosed after the onset of neck and shoulder pain, or perhaps low back pain that seems to be spreading. But this vague diagnosis, accompanied by a hurried drug prescription, fails to illuminate what is pinching the nerve, and it completely fails to identify the cause.
Most common types of nerve pressure
As delicate nerve fibers branch off the spinal cord, they must negotiate several passageways to reach their destination. As the nerve first leaves the spinal cord, it has to pass through a tiny hole between any two vertebrae. Also between the cartilage disc that separates them. If the vertebrae themselves are displaced or shifted by even a small amount, or the disc is bulging into the gap, then there can be pressure exerted on the nerve and it will begin to suffer and become irritated and blocked. This is the most common type of nerve pressure you will experience and it is a mechanical problem involving the spine. It occurs most commonly in the lower neck, which affects the shoulders and arms. In the lower back, this affects the hips, buttocks and down the legs.
First symptoms of a pinched nerve
What is essential to understand is the initial impingement cannot be experienced. The reason being, only a small fraction of the nerve carries pain messages. However, when this squeezing irritation persists then gradually a symptom emerges. Depending on which nerve fibers are compressed, symptoms may include sharp, darting pain originating in the neck or low back. The pain may radiate down the course of the nerve and into the shoulder. The pain may even go down as far as the leg. Other symptoms can be dull aches right at the source, or also tight and sore muscles.
Symptoms tell you that there is a problem
These symptoms are there to let you know there is a problem. The real health issue is not the pain. The issue is the damage that the body incurs as the nerve messages are choked off from their intended destinations. Remember, there isn’t a nerve root exiting the spine that doesn’t feed some vital organ. Subsequently, over time, organs in your body can begin to lose their proper function while the accompanying pain can become very uncomfortable.
Medication is not the answer
Quite obviously, if a nerve is being trapped, pinched, or impinged, the only sensible course of action is to find out what is causing the pinching? I am appalled at the number of patients I meet who have been given painkillers or anti-inflammatories as a treatment for these types of health issues. Wouldn’t that mask the problem and allow more significant damage? Would you place tape over a blinking engine light? Then why would you accept that solution for your own body?
If you have, or you suspect, that you have a pinched or trapped nerve, then the sensible thing is to get that hard bone off the soft nerve as quickly as possible. We would encourage you to call us as soon as possible to avoid worse and possibly irreparable damage.