Know the symptoms of a pinched nerve and when to seek treatment
Leaning on elbows, consistently crossing legs and having poor posture — these are just a few ways that you can put too much pressure on your tissues and cause a pinched nerve. Nerves extend from your brain and spinal cord and are in charge of sending important messages throughout your body. When a nerve is pinched, that message will likely come in the form of pain. Read on to learn other signs and symptoms of a pinched nerve.
What is a pinched nerve?
A pinched nerve can occur almost anywhere in your body. Pinched nerves frequently occur in wrists, where they can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes pain and numbness in the hands and fingers. Additionally, pinched nerves often occur in the lower spine, where a herniated disc can cause shooting pain down the back of the leg.
A pinched nerve is the result of too much pressure on surrounding tissues, including bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons. An example of this is falling asleep on your elbow. Because your elbow isn’t used to supporting your body weight, the increased pressure can disrupt your nerve’s function, resulting in pain, tingling, numbness or weakness.
Signs and Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve
How do you know if you have a pinched nerve? Sometimes your only sign of a pinched nerve will be pain. However, you may also experience any or all of the following:
- Numbness, tingling or decreased sensation in the area where the nerve is pinched
- Sharp, aching or burning pain; sometimes this pain radiates outward or worsens with movement
- Muscle weakness in the impacted area
- Feeling like your foot or hand has fallen asleep
What should you do if you think you have a pinched nerve?
Pinched nerves can be minor or severe. Therefore, treatment varies case by case. You may find that rest, over-the-counter medicine, or avoiding certain activities remove your symptoms of a pinched nerve. However, if symptoms persist longer than a few days you should see a doctor. Your doctor may provide treatment to shrink the swollen tissue around the pinched nerve. Depending on your case, examples of treatment may include:
- Removing pieces of bone, scar tissue or disc material
- Over-the-counter medicine, oral corticosteroids, steroid injections or narcotics
- Physical therapy and/or the use of a splint
- In extreme cases, surgery may be required
When a nerve only stays pinched for a short period of time, there is usually no permanent damage and your nerve will return to functioning regularly. However, permanent damage can occur if you continue applying pressure on the pinched nerve.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms for longer than a few days, make an appointment with your primary care doctor. If you need a primary care physician, the Mercy Health team can help. Reach out to our team, located in eight regions throughout Ohio and Kentucky, at 513-952-5000 or visit mercy.com to find an expert, compassionate caregiver near you today.