People often assume pain to be proportionate; if a small body area is hurt, the resulting pain is minor. Significant pain, on the other hand, must stem from a significant injury.
That is not always the case. Occasionally, seemingly minuscule changes within the body can cause disproportionate amounts of pain, further health problems, and an inability to engage in daily life. One particularly illustrative example of this is pinched nerves.
What Is a Pinched Nerve?
The nervous system is the body’s communication highway, essential for sending signals to perform everyday functions and respond appropriately to the environment. The spinal cord, which runs up the back and is protected by the spine, serves as communication central; it sends out directions from the brain and receives incoming signals.
However, when one of these nerves is pinched — which occurs most often around the spinal cord — it becomes unable to perform its job, potentially leading to a myriad of complications.
A nerve can end up pinched in a number of different ways. They most commonly cause problems when the nerve’s root is compressed, leading to discomfort and pain both near the nerve and radiating outward.
Why Do Pinched Nerves Occur?
Generally, nerves are compressed by some sort of tissue — a bone, cartilage, muscle, or tendon — becoming displaced and placing an unnatural amount of pressure on the nerve. Although this compression occurs at varying levels of severity and stems from various causes, the most common catalysts for pinched nerves can be divided into four categories:
Subluxations occur when one of the spine’s vertebrae is forced out of place. The vertebrae’s misalignment causes it to press on nearby areas that are unused to being compressed, such as nerves.
Spinal vertebrae are each separated by discs — round pieces of cartilage that prevent the bones from grinding against one another. However, age and stressors can cause these discs to deteriorate, and the nerves that run between those vertebrae are crushed in the process.
Spinal discs can suffer other maladies besides degeneration. A disc herniation occurs when its soft center protrudes through a tear in the disc’s tough exterior. The disc’s center — its nucleus — then pushes against its surroundings, which often include nerves.
Osteoarthritis is a medical condition characterized by the degeneration of joints. One of its symptoms is the formation of bone spurs — bony projections that develop around joints. Much like disc degeneration or herniation, these bone spurs can pinch nerves by closing up the space through which they run.
These four conditions are the direct cause of pinched nerves. However, they almost always occur as a result of some indirect cause. They may develop in:
- Overweight patients;
- Patients involved in dangerous sports or vehicular accidents;
- Patients who have sat for years at a desk with poor posture;
- Patients who have rheumatoid arthritis.
Body Areas Commonly Affected by Pinched Nerves
Pinched nerves can occur in any joint throughout the body but often along the spine. Physicians use special terms to denote different sections of the spine:
- Cervical spine for the neck area;
- Thoracic spine for the upper and middle back;
- Lumbar spine for the lower back.
However, because nerves radiate out from their source, the symptoms of a pinched nerve in the spine may affect completely separate parts of the body. A pinched shoulder nerve, for example, may cause pain or numbness in the shoulder, arm, and hand. Likewise, a pinched nerve in the lumbar region can result in weakness and pain all the way down to one’s foot.
Symptoms of Pinched Nerves
The symptoms of a pinched nerve vary widely depending on the cause and location of the pinch. The most common symptoms include:
- Spinal pain;
- Pain in an arm or leg;
- Neck pain;
- Back pain;
- Burning sensation;
- Muscle weakness.
What Can a Chiropractor Do for a Pinched Nerve?
Chiropractic care can help alleviate the severe symptoms of pinched nerves, reduce inflammation, provide relief to the affected area, and expedite the healing process. Adjustments performed by a licensed chiropractor can help to properly realign the body and relieve pressure off the affected nerve. For example, using decompression therapy, chiropractors can perform a spinal manipulation to relieve stress on a nerve, massage therapy can help calm muscle spasms, and cryotherapy provides relief through numbing nerve pain.
Stretches for Pinched Nerve Pain Relief
In addition to lifestyle changes that can help prevent pinched nerves and improve symptoms of existing pinched nerves (such as better desk ergonomics), chiropractors often recommend stretches that many patients can complete at home.
For chronic pain in the lumbar region, chiropractors recommend varieties of the pigeon pose (reclining, sitting, and forward), which decompresses the spine and creates more breathing space for the affected nerves. Also, try the “chin tuck while looking down” exercise for neck pain to decompress the cervical spine region.
Looking To Treat a Pinched Nerve? Look No Further Than Bergen Chiropractic!
At the Bergen Chiropractic and Sports Rehabilitation Center, our chiropractic team, led by Dr. Gregory Doerr, follows the highest and most professional medical standards to provide superior chiropractic help. Our mission is to provide unparalleled patient care and services in a comfortable healing atmosphere. Access our contact form or call us at (201) 298-7179 or (201) 357-6539 to learn more about our chiropractic services! Our chiropractic offices at 532 Anderson Avenue, Cliffside Park, NJ 07010, and 62 Summit Ave, Hackensack, NJ 07601, are ready to welcome you as we proudly serve New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, PA, and Baltimore, MD, areas. Also, feel free to access our blog, Facebook, and Instagram pages for more information on chiropractic care treatments!