The primary control center of the human body is the nervous system, which flows through and can be manipulated by the 24 vertebrae of the spinal column. The vertebrae are divided into three classes – Cervical (C), Thoracic (T), and Lumbar (L). By understanding the role that each vertebrae within the spinal column plays, a doctor of Chiropractic, can affect the way the body responds and restore a balance that facilitates its own healing system. Nerves extend from your brain and spinal cord, sending vital messages throughout your body. If you have a pinched nerve your body may sometimes send you warning signals such as pain, numbness, tinging and more. Do NOT ignore these warning signals.
Nerve impingement is similar to obstruction of flow within a water hose. The green part of the garden hose is the fine outer membrane of the nerve fiber. The inside of the hose transports the nerve messages like water, from your central nervous system to their destination within your body. If your nerve is being ‘pinched’, just like a water hose, the nerve flow up and down the inside of the hose is reduced or blocked, meaning your nerves messages are being disrupted. Eventually, the nerve starts to lose its healthy ability to transmit the correct messages and the nerve fiber may eventually die. When enough fibers stop working, not only can you feel pain but other symptoms may also develop.
Damage from a pinched nerve may be minor or severe. It may cause temporary or long-lasting problems. The earlier you get a diagnosis and treatment for nerve compression, the more quickly you’ll find relief. In most cases, chiropractic care can help. In some cases, you can’t reverse the damage from a pinched nerve. But treatment can usually still relieve pain and other symptoms. Chiropractic specifically looks for the source of the impingement and via means of restoring normal alignment and various therapies, alleviates the compression on the nerve. As the nerve regenerates and the electric impulses flow through the nerve more robustly, the closer to an ideal state of health and homeostasis a person achieves.
Causes of Pinched Nerves
A pinched nerve occurs when there is “compression” (pressure) on a nerve. The pressure may be the result of repetitive motions, trauma or it may happen from holding your body in one position for long periods, such as sleeping awkwardly or sitting for prolonged periods of time.
Nerve compression often occurs when there are subluxations (misalignments in the spine), bulging discs or swelling around the joint. Other sources of nerve entrapment may include ligament thickening, scar tissue/post-surgical adhesions, arthritic bone spurs, stenosis (narrowing of spinal canals) and tendinopathy (tendon disorders).
Inflammation or pressure on a nerve root exiting the spine may cause neck pain, low back pain or radiculopathy. Radiculopathy means the nerve can refer pain and dysfunction to the arms and legs. This can lead to pain in the shoulders, elbows, hands, wrist and fingers if there is a pinched nerve in the neck. There can also be pain in the hips, groin, knees, ankles and toes if there is a pinched nerve in the low back.
Symptoms of Pinched Nerves
With nerve compression, sometimes pain may be your only symptom. Or you may have other symptoms without pain. These are some of the more common symptoms of compressed nerves:
- Pain in the area of compression, such as the neck or low back
- Radiating pain, such as sciatica or radicular pain
- Numbness or tingling
- “Pins and needles” or a burning sensation
- Weakness, especially with certain activities
Too often during treatment for arm and leg pain the root source of the condition is overlooked, which is nerve impingement in the spine. Sometimes symptoms worsen when you try certain movements, such as turning your head, pivoting at the waist or straining. Since pain is not always involved, the only way to determine the presence of a pinched nerve is an examination. Chiropractors specialize in detecting and correcting misalignment’s that cause pinched nerves.