There is no doubt that a pinched nerve can be extremely painful and troublesome. A nerve can get pinched when too much pressure is placed upon it by surrounding tissues. Nerves can be pinched or irritated by nearby bones, muscles, tendons, and cartilage, disrupting the nerve’s ability to function. In general, nerves perform one of two functions: they carry signals about movement (motor nerve) or sensation (sensory nerves). Depending on the characteristics of the impacted nerve, a person may experience pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness.
How Does A Pinched Nerve Happen and What are the Symptoms?
The nerves in your body follow known pathways. Your brainstem and spinal cord pass through a central canal housed in the middle of your spinal column. Nerve roots branch off the spinal cord and pass through openings in between each vertebra. The ones that branch off your spinal cord in the neck provide movement and feeling to the shoulders, arms, and hands. A common condition related to a pinched nerve in the neck is carpal tunnel syndrome. Nerves that emerge from your lower back travel through the hips, buttocks, down the leg, and into the foot. A pinched nerve in your lower spine can cause sciatic nerve pain (sciatica) and weakness in the legs or feet.
One of the most common causes of a pinched nerve is a herniated disc. The discs are the “cushions” that separate each of your vertebral segments and act as shock absorbers. Because of an injury or wear and tear over time, a disc can weaken and become damaged. A pinched nerve can be a result of a disc that has degenerated and worn thin, or from a herniation of the inner material of the disc that can push on the nerve root or spinal cord. Bone spurs, muscle spasms, and inflammation can be contributing factors as well.
While back or neck pain is often a good clue that a nerve may be affected, other signs and symptoms of a pinched nerve can include:
- A decrease in sensation in the area of the nerve
- Numbness, tingling, or pins and needles sensations
- Radiating pain that can be sharp, aching, or burning
- Muscle weakness in the area served by the affected nerve
- Feeling like your arm, hand, foot, leg, etc. frequently “falls asleep”
- Symptoms that can worsen at night and disrupt your sleep
- Pain that becomes worse with coughing, sneezing, or bearing down
5 Non-Invasive Options for Pinched Nerve Relief
Before resorting to less conservative, more invasive treatment options for a pinched nerve, consider the following five effective steps:
#1: Check your posture
Take a good look at your posture when sitting or standing. When you have a pinched nerve, you may need to make adjustments to your body position in order to find some relief. As a good practice, make sure you do not slouch over, round your shoulders forward, or bear more weight on one leg. Common postural problems that can lead to imbalances over time include always crossing the same leg over the other when sitting, bending the neck forward for extended periods of time while on a mobile device, or using improper lifting techniques.
When you have a pinched nerve in the neck or back, resting and avoiding pain-generating activities can help you get back on your feet faster. Getting enough sleep is also essential to the healing process.
#3: Alternate ice and heat
Sometimes called contrast therapy, using ice and heat alternately can help reduce inflammation by encouraging fresh blood to flow into the area. Doing so can speed up healing and provided needed pain relief.
#4: Loosen tight muscles
If tight muscles are contributing to your pinched nerve, trying some gentle stretching, massage therapy, or yoga can help to alleviate the pressure. Go easy at first, as you don’t want to risk causing more irritation to an already inflamed area.
#5 Chiropractic care
It is a natural fit to see a chiropractor for a pinched nerve. Since nerves and your spine are intimately related, it is imperative to keep your spine well aligned to prevent issues related to pinched nerves.
Get Specific with Your Care with Upper Cervical Chiropractic
Upper cervical chiropractic care can help you to address the underlying cause of a pinched nerve, whether it be in your neck, lower back, or elsewhere in the spine. A misalignment will often occur at the junction between the head and neck, and from there begin to create a series of compensations throughout the rest of the spine. If the upper neck is out of alignment, the body will go through great lengths to keep the head upright and eyes level with the horizon. This can result in one shoulder being higher than the other or one hip uneven to the other. Unequal stress and strain from side to side in your body can result in the pinching of nerves.
If you’re experiencing pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, or any other symptoms of a pinched nerve, getting checked by an upper cervical chiropractor can be the first step towards addressing the underlying cause of the problem. Upper cervical chiropractic care is gentle, effective, and long-lasting. As the spine comes back into normal alignment, irritation to the affected nerves is also reduced. Many patients experience vast improvements or even complete resolution of their symptoms.