I treat people for pinched nerves every day. Some people come in and say “I have a pinched nerve.” Others have no idea if they do or not. Some tell me their doctor told them they have a pinched nerve. The reality is the term gets tossed around a lot without much accuracy as to what is happening in the body and today I’d like to clear up how to tell if you have a pinched nerve in your neck or spine.
First a brief anatomy lesson… Your brain is connected to your muscles and organs via the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves. This system is how the brain relays information to and from the organs and muscles. ANY interference in this communication results in the decreased function of the muscle or organ at the end of the nerve being affected. If you need an example of this hit your “funny bone”. That is actually the ulnar nerve and the effect from hitting is like what goes on when a bone pinches a nerve exiting the spine.
The most common form of nerve interference is when spinal nerves exiting the spine are compressed by misaligned vertebrae. We call this a spinal subluxation. Since what is basically happening is the nerve is being pinched we can safely say that potentially ANY back or neck problem is from a pinched nerve. The question is to what degree is the nerve pinched? By the way, this the very problem chiropractic adjustments address.
There are essentially 3 levels of nerve compression or a “pinched nerve” people deal with. Remember that whether its an organ or a muscle whatever happens to be at the end of a pinched nerve will not function at 100%.
The 3 levels I see are
1-Tight muscles: when there is a mild to moderate amount of pressure on the nerve the first thing a muscle will do is tighten up. This is due a reduction in function and the body is essentially trying to protect the area so it is not injured further.
2-Pain: if the problem continues unaddressed, eventually the muscle will tighten and the function will decrease to the level where symptoms of pain begin. This might first be noticed as a pain that comes and goes, comes on with certain activities and eventually progresses to a constant pain of varying degrees.
3- Numbness, tingling, burning or shooting pain: eventually the problems progresses so that there is enough pressure on the nerve to cause the symptoms that indicate the nerve is actually being damaged. At this point function is so reduced that the body is basically trying to shut down the area so that it has time to heal it as much as it can. Typically at this point without chiropractic care the best you can hope for is a coming and going of pain as the body tries desperately to maintain as much function as possible for as long as possible. This is the level where medical doctors commonly refer to the problem as a “pinched nerve”. However you can see the problem has been developing slowly over a number of weeks, months or even years.
Like I mentioned above the underlying cause is pressure on the nerve from misaligned vertebrae. Chiropractic addresses this problem and it is possible to see significant improvement and in many cases complete recovery. Removing the problem allows the body to take over and heal the affected areas without drugs, surgery or other interventions.
If you struggle with these types of problems we can help. We offer Free Consultations so reach out to us by calling, Facebook Messenger or just stop in. We are here to help you be as healthy as possible.