Imagine holding a straw in your hand and squeezing the middle as you sip a beverage. You will notice that not much liquid is able to pass through the straw and reach your mouth. Essentially, this is what happens when you have a “pinched” nerve. A pinched nerve ensues when a nerve is compressed, and when it occurs in the neck area, the constriction causes a pain that radiates into the shoulder then down the arm through the elbow, wrist, hand and fingers. The pinch may result from repetitive motions or from holding your body in one position for long periods, such as keeping your elbow bent while asleep.
Because symptoms of a pinched nerve often resolve themselves after several weeks, surgery should be considered only as a last resort. There are several conservative, nonsurgical treatments that may help alleviate pain from a pinched nerve. Often, relief can be obtained by simply resting the injured area and avoiding activities that tend to worsen the symptoms. Pharmacological treatments include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate pain and swelling and corticosteroid injections to reduce pain and allow inflamed nerves to recover. However, in some cases, conservative treatments may only offer temporary relief.
Perhaps more effective for symptoms that grow progressively worse is physical therapy. A soft collar limits neck motion, allowing the muscles to relax, and alleviates pressure on the nerve roots. Massage and cold laser therapy can lessen inflammation and muscle strain. Exercises to strengthen and stretch muscles in the affected area can relieve pressure on the nerve. Other therapeutic exercises can enhance muscular support of the spine and preserve a more vertical alignment, helping to prevent future episodes of a pinched nerve. Where compressed vertebrae have caused the pinched nerve, traction and other forms of spinal decompression can help take the pressure off the nerve roots.
If you continue to suffer from pain, numbness or other issues that limit your ability to enjoy life and perform everyday tasks, surgery may be required. After surgery, we can help you manage pain; provide information regarding lifestyle changes, such as finding a comfortable sleeping position; help you regain mobility and flexibility, and safely return to daily activity; and avoid a recurrence of your pinched nerve.
If you feel a tingling “pins and needles” sensation in your arm, elbow, wrist or fingers, call our office for an assessment. We will design an exercise program to address your pinched nerve.