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Pinched Nerve

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What is a pinched nerve?

A "pinched nerve" is the name given to the uncomfortable sensation, pain, or numbness caused when increased pressure leads to irritation or damage to a peripheral nerve (A peripheral nerve is one that is outside the brain and spinal cord.). Although this condition is often associated with back pain or a neck injury, almost any nerve is susceptible.

What are the risk factors for a pinched nerve?

Anything which increases pressure around a nerve can cause a pinched nerve. Common causes include body position such as leaning on elbows, habitually crossing legs, or poor posture. Over time this may lead to pressure injury to nerves in these regions.

  • Disc herniation or bulging discs and arthritis in the spine can cause pressure on nerve roots which leads to the pain or discomfort associated with a pinched nerve.
  • Weight gain or water retention can predispose people to developing pinched nerves; thyroid disease (especially hypothyroidism, or low thyroid hormone levels) can contribute to both water retention and weight gain and can increase the risk of certain types of pinched nerves.
  • Pregnancy, which is associated with increased weight and occasionally associated with water retention, is also a common risk factor for developing certain types of pinched nerves.
  • Repetitive activities (typing and using certain tools) can also increase swelling around specific nerves and lead to symptoms of a pinched nerve.

What causes a pinched nerve?

Pressure on a peripheral nerve can irritate the nerve itself, its protective covering (myelin sheath), or both. When this occurs, the nerve is unable to conduct sensory impulses to the brain appropriately, leading to a sense of numbness. This inflammation associated with the damage or injury can also cause pain or paresthesia (a tingling or prickling sensation) signals to be sent to the brain. In its early stages, many people may describe this sensation as a body part that has "fallen asleep." However, if nerve inflammation persists, this sensation persists rather than resolving after a few minutes.

If the nerve is compressed for a short amount of time, it is often able to repair itself but it may take several weeks or months for the symptoms to fully resolve. However, if the compression remains present for a long time, permanent nerve injury may occur.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/30/2014

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Pinched Nerve - Treatment Question: What treatment have you had for your pinched nerve? Did it help?
Pinched Nerve - Symptoms Question: What do your pinched nerve symptoms feel like? Pain, tingling, numbness, or something else?
Pinched Nerve - Diagnosis Question: How was your pinched nerve diagnosed? Did you have an MRI, CT scan, or other test to diagnose your nerve condition?
Pinched Nerve - Causes Question: What was the cause of your pinched nerve?
Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/pinched_nerve_overview/article.htm

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