Pinched Nerve (cont.)
Jason C. Eck, DO, MS
Dr. Eck received a Bachelor of Science degree from the Catholic University of America in Biomedical Engineering, followed by a Master of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering from Marquette University. Following this he worked as a research engineer conducting spine biomechanics research. He then attended medical school at University of Health Sciences. He is board eligible in orthopaedic surgery.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Pinched nerve facts
- Introduction to pinched nerve
- What causes a pinched nerve?
- Pinched nerve in the neck or lower back
- Pinched nerve in the wrist or elbow
- Other causes of pinched nerve
- What are the symptoms of a pinched nerve?
- How is a pinched nerve diagnosed?
- How is a pinched nerve treated?
- What is a patent's prognosis for a pinched nerve?
- Find a local Neurologist in your town
How is a pinched nerve treated?
In many cases a pinched nerve can be treated with rest and ice. If the pinched nerve is in the arm (carpal tunnel syndrome or cubital tunnel syndrome) the doctor may recommend a brace for a short period of time. The brace limits the amount of movement around the nerve, which allows it to rest and recover. The brace also prevents the patient from movements that may further compress or pinch the affected nerve. A brace used for carpal tunnel syndrome covers the wrist and and is extended slightly back. This is because during flexion (bending the wrist down) the median nerve in the wrist is further pinched. The brace for cubital tunnel syndrome in the elbow can be used to keep the elbow from bending too much which further stretches the ulnar nerve.
Various medications can also be used to treat a pinched nerve. Anti-inflammatory medications, for example, ibuprofen or naproxen can reduce the inflammation (swelling) around the affected nerve. Other medications used specifically for nerve related pain include gabapentin (Neurontin) or pregabalin (Lyrica.
Physical therapy can assist to stretch and strengthen specific muscles in the body, which helps relieve the pressure on the pinched nerve.
If the symptoms from a pinched nerve do not improve with the above treatments, surgery may be recommended. Surgery may also be recommended if the patient develops additional weakness in the muscles, or if the particular nerves being pinched cause loss of control of the bowel or bladder (cauda equina syndrome). These are signs of more severe nerve damage.
Surgery for a pinched nerve depends on the location of the nerve being pinched. If the pinched nerve is in the wrist (carpal tunnel syndrome) or elbow (cubital tunnel syndrome), the surgeon can release the tissues over the nerve in the wrist or elbow to free the nerve tissue pressure.
If the pinched nerve is in the neck or lower back a spine surgeon or neurosurgeon can remove a portion of the disc or bone spurs that are compressing the nerve in the spine. In some cases, if it is necessary to remove large portions of bone or disc, the surgery may require a spinal fusion to stabilize the spine after freeing the nerve.
In the MRI image below, the herniated disc is occluding the nerves in the spinal cord.
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