If you have ever had a pinched nerve believe me, you knew it. Of all the many musculoskeletal conditions I have treated in my almost 10 years of clinical practice few conditions present with as much pain and ability to disrupt a person’s day to day life.
Pinched nerves commonly occur in the spine where a misaligned vertebra, called a subluxation, puts pressure on the nerve root. The nerve root is simply where the nerve exits the spinal cord and becomes a peripheral nerve. They can range in severity from relatively minor to severe.
The spine is a complex system of joints which allow us remarkable freedom of movement. As such however it can also cause many different problems when things don’t work the way they are supposed to. So how do you determine if you do in fact have a pinched nerve?
In my experience the top three things to look for which distinguish a pinched nerve from other problems in the spine are
Shooting Pain- when pain shoots down the arms or legs on either or both sides from the spine chances are very good you are experiencing a pinched nerve. The nerves that exit the spine in the lower neck/upper back and the low back merge once they leave the spine to form the nerves in the arms and legs. This is why problems in the neck or back can cause the shooting pain down the arms or legs.
Muscular Weakness- one of the places the nerves serve in the body is the muscles. If a nerve is being pinched it is akin to stepping on a garden hose to stymie its flow. In similar fashion when a nerve is pinched the full signal from the brain to the muscle is diminished and muscle weakness can be the result.
Numbness, Tingling or Burning in the Extremities- Pain caused by nerve injury is different than muscle or other soft tissue injury. Instead of aching pain nerve pain commonly manifests as numb, tingling or burning pain. If you have ever struck your “funny bone” you know what this can feel like. The funny bone is not a bone at all but the relatively unprotected ulnar nerve. Upon striking it you also probably experienced the other 2 types of symptoms listed above, shooting pain and weakness as well.
What do you about it?
While medical treatments such as steroids and injections are sometimes use these simply mask the problem, which is physical in nature. In cases of pinched nerves chiropractic is the treatment of choice since it removes the cause of the problem, the misaligned bones pressing on the nerves. Expect treatment for a condition such as this to last up to several weeks depending on the severity of the condition when treatment is started. Also, icing the affected areas of the spine can be beneficial. Be consistent with your treatment plan and adopt a maintenance policy once healed and you should be able to resume a pain free life.