Even if you’ve never had a pinched nerve, you probably know that whatever it is is no good. After all, as a kid it was annoying at best and quite painful at worst to get trapped. So, as you can imagine, it is uncomfortable to have signs of a pinched nerve now. But what is a pinched nerve and what causes it? More importantly, how can we spot the signs of a pinched nerve and how can we treat it? The answers to all of these questions can be found below.
What is a pinched nerve?
A pinched nerve occurs when something puts too much pressure on one of your nerves, be it around bones, cartilage, muscles, or tendons, explains the Mayo Clinic. This disrupts the functioning of your nerve, causing pain and a host of other non-funny symptoms that can feel completely mystifying (we̵
First, how does pinched nerves come about?
There are many reasons you might get a pinched nerve, as basically anything that puts pressure on your nerves can cause one. Possible causes include injury, a health condition such as arthritis, and physical stress on a part of your body from repetitive labor, according to the Mayo Clinic. Pregnancy can also increase your risk, as weight gain can swell the nerve pathways, compressing your nerves in the process. Diabetes is another risk factor because high levels of sugar and fat in your blood caused by diabetes can damage your nerves and the blood vessels that nourish them, according to the National Institute on Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Problems.
A pinched nerve may sound very serious, and it can get serious, but if your nerve is compressed for a short period of time, most people will recover within a few days or weeks once that pressure is relieved with rest or treatment. However, if the pressure isn’t controlled, you can deal with chronic symptoms and even permanent nerve damage. “It is always in your best interest to contact your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve quickly,” said Dr. Ilan Danan, sports neurologist at the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at the Cedars Sinai Kerlan Jobe Institute in Los Angeles. California, tells ITSELF.
What are the symptoms of a pinched nerve?
Although you can get pinched nerve symptoms in many parts of your body, these are common in your arms, hands, legs, or feet, depending on the location of the nerve compression, Dr. A. Nick Shamie, Professor and Chef of Orthopedic Spine Surgery at UCLA Health, tells SELF. These are the big pinched nerve symptoms to look out for:
1. You have pens and needles:
To understand why this happens, you need to know that there are three main types of nerves in your body: sensory nerves, which are responsible for making you feel things, motor nerves, which control the voluntary movement of your muscles, and autonomic nerves who take care of the automatic organ-related functions such as sweating, regulating blood pressure and breathing according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Your nerves are responsible for carrying signals from one point to another in your body. “Anything that blocks this signal from occurring will result in a manifestation of symptoms,” says Dr. Danan. A pinprick sensation usually means a sensory nerve is being compressed, he adds.
2. You have numbness or decreased sensation in one area of your body:
This has a lot to do with pressure, which causes poor blood flow to the nerve, says Dr. Shamie and cites the example of “not being able to feel your arm when you wake up in the morning because you were lying on it”. Pressure can cause problems with the nerves’ ability to fire, he says. As a result, your hand or arm may feel numb until you release the pressure that is blocking blood flow.
3. It feels like your hand or foot is falling asleep a lot:
If you notice this tends to happen when you sit on your leg or rest your arm in a certain way, then it goes away as you move. It’s very likely that you’re only temporarily compressing the nerve with your position, says Dr. Danan. But if it seems to happen out of nowhere and you’re not sure why, it’s important to consult a doctor to see what could be causing the compression.
4. You have a sharp, aching, or burning pain that may radiate outward:
This can happen because something near the nerve becomes inflamed and compressed, or the nerve itself inflames, says Dr. Shamie. “It’s your body’s way of alerting you that something is up,” he adds.