WHAT ARE 'TRAPPED NERVES', PINCHED NERVES?
Nerves don’t really become trapped – this is another throw away term! This is something we see most days in our practice. It is really a term for any change in sensation in tissues of the body. This can be tingling, coldness, heat, numbness along the passage of a particular irritated nerve. Trigger points in muscles can mimic the pain of a 'pinched nerve'.
I would recommend visiting one of the osteopaths as the first port of call. Our assessment skills should lead us to the problem and usually we can help.
Nerves can be affected by a variety of changes in their surrounding tissues. Most commonly, there can be compression or irritation of nerves as they exit through the vertebra from the spinal cord. These nerves send signals to muscles and other tissues and also transmit sensations from the periphery to the spinal cord.
Accidents and falls can result in inflammation in muscles, joints and tendons and the supporting soft tissues. Inflammation, which is the body's healing mechanism, involves increased fluid in the area. This can become irritating or cause congestion especially if the tissues are tense and tight. Repetitive Strain Injuries do the same to the areas affected e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow etc.
This congestion and interference affects the area itself or where the nerve signal is going. This is why having a tingling pinky usually means that the nerve at the base of the neck, is being irritated. Painful and weak arms usually lead the practitioner to the neck and shoulder area.
Nerves extend from the brain and spinal cord, sending important messages throughout your body and firing muscles. If one of the joints in the spine – the facet joint – suffers a sprain you can imagine the swelling when you compare it to an ankle sprain. There most certainly will be pain. There may also be long lasting problems if nothing is done to remedy the situation. With inflammation, come chemicals that rush to the scene to clean up. This increased activity and increased fluid can cause nerves to be compromised or they may be unable to repair due to lack of good circulation.
The pressure may also be the result of repetitive motions (RSI) or bad posture.
Nerve pain can feel like an electric shock. It is also known as neuralgia or neuropathic pain. Sometimes pain shoots, as it does in sciatica, right down the leg. In trigeminal neuralgia, it shoots in the face. It can cause stabbling pains that are difficult to cope with. Shingles is another type of nerve pain, where the nerve bringing information to the spinal cord, is affected.
Nerves are vulnerable where they travel through narrow spaces but have little soft tissue to protect them. Pain can include low back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, numbness in hands and fingers, sciatica and so on. If left unresolved the risk is that the damage will be harder to reverse due to scarring and adhering of tissues.
Sometimes the 'trapped nerve' is blamed on a 'slipped disc'. Discs don't really slip but they can herniate or bulge. This does NOT mean that will cause pain. Most of us over the age of 15 have bulging discs and there is sufficient research to show that people with bulging discs don't necessarily have pain. Some do but it is difficult to say, definitively. A severe car accident may cause a disc to herniate and that may well be a surgical emergency.
Any signs and symptoms that involve not knowing when you are passing urine or incontinence with bowel movements or numbness in the 'saddle' area, are warning signs that something needs to be checked by the medical profession as soon as possible. An MRI will help in the diagnosis.
'Slipped disc' is often used to describe back pain so we advise an osteopathy assessement. Let us have a look and we can determine the best course of action.
Another name for sciatica then, could be 'trapped nerve'.
So in simple terms, nerves don’t really become trapped. As they travel out of the spinal canal to the arms, legs, fingers or feet, they have to go under, over and through structures to get to their final destination. Thus, the nerves don’t always have a clear pathway. Any one of these structures can compress a nerve resulting in pain. This is then further aggravated by the body's protective inflammatory reaction which in turn causes more pain and irritation to the nerve and the surrounding muscles and ligaments.Muscles tense and splint an injured area. Often, releasing trigger points in the affected muscles can help the nerve pain dramatically.
Chronic Pain may result if the painful condition is not treated. This can be a life changing problem. Read our page on this following the link.
Keeping your body exercised and stretched to improve posture, mobility and strength are advised. Regular massge treatments are advised to help in this. Prevention is always best. Naturopathy advocates healthy living in regard to a healthy diet, sufficient and varied exercise, fluid intake, good posture to maintain a good healthy lifestyle. This will keep bones strong and minimise the problems that are so often blamed on aging.
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