What is actually happening when we talk about a ‘pinched nerve’

Admin Admin

May 20, 2019
Cervical or lumbar radiculopathy or also referred to as a ‘pinched nerve’ refers to when a nerve is irritated or compressed as it passes through the tunnel of the spine in either the neck or back. This tunnel is very small in nature and gets smaller as we age and therefore much more common in […]
What is actually happening when we talk about a ‘pinched nerve’

Cervical or lumbar radiculopathy or also referred to as a ‘pinched nerve’ refers to when a nerve is irritated or compressed as it passes through the tunnel of the spine in either the neck or back. This tunnel is very small in nature and gets smaller as we age and therefore much more common in ages 40+.

It’s very common for people to present to a physiotherapist with a self-diagnosed ‘pinched nerve’, but this is much less common than you think. In most cases, the pain is arising from the joints in the neck and there is an inflammatory response around the nerve, however, it is not being pushed on.

Signs & Symptoms (what you may experience)

  • Referred pain down either the arms or legs
  • Altered sensations down the arms or legs such as pins and needles or burning.
  • Muscle weakness
  • Diminished reflexes

What causes a trapped nerve?

A nerve can become ‘pinched’ by the surrounding tissue that irritates or compresses the nerve.

These tissues include:

  • Disc herniation or protrusion
  • Injury to ligaments
  • Injury to muscles
  • Arthritic spurs (bone spurs)
  • Inflammation from a different injury

How do we diagnose this?

The first step is a thorough neck and/or back assessment by your Doctor or Physiotherapist to assess whether further imaging is necessary. Once we have diagnosed your problem, we are able to decide whether an Orthopaedic review is required, or whether physiotherapy should be prescribed. 

How can physiotherapy help?

  • Soft tissue massage and dry needling to decrease muscle spasm around the compressed nerve.
  • Mobilisation of the spine to decrease joint stiffness and take pressure off the nerve by allowing more space for it to pass through.
  • Strengthening exercises for weak muscles to prevent the injury from returning.
  • Education & advice about which positions to avoid, and which positions will help.
  • Corticosteroid injections can be organised by referring to a Medical Specialist (if necessary).

How Long until I’m better?

The time to recovery varies between individuals. This ranges from several weeks to months.

What can I do at home?

The first thing to is follow-up with your general practitioner for advice on medication that can help both with the pain and any inflammation that may be occurring. The next thing to do is find comfortable positions that won’t irritate the nerve further. Your physiotherapist will show you these positions and some gentle exercises to get you going again.

Reece Jones

Principal Physiotherapist

Set in Motion Physiotherapy

Categories: Blog | Press
Tags

Related content

Pneumonia, want to avoid it this winter?

Pneumonia, want to avoid it this winter?

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by either a viral or bacterial disease. The lungs become inflamed as your alveoli (tiny air sacs) become filled with fluid, causing an infection to arise. During winter Pneumonia...

Should you ice after an injury?

Should you ice after an injury?

Over the past 5 years, there has been a topical debate over whether we should ice after an injury or not. In 1978 we used the acronym RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation,) to treat any soft tissue injury. This acronym has evolved over the years to PRICE...

The ‘New’ Normal!

The ‘New’ Normal!

The first time your cat rested itself upon your keyboard was cute. The second..third - fourth time, a little less cute, a little more diabolical.  We are seeing laws relax and people and businesses itching to return to work. Businesses across every sector are...

Where Have All The Patients Gone?

Where Have All The Patients Gone?

Hallmarking the signs of war - fear and terror preparing for the onslaught. Battle shields (face) ready. Through the wall and doors - burst like a ruthless force. Reasonable preparation as we watched our Italian colleagues decide who lives or dies. The Trolley...

0 Comments