Pinched nerve, or impingement of a nerve occurs when too much pressure is exerted on a nerve by the surrounding tissue, such as bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons.
This pressure alters the function of the nerve and causes pain, tingling, numbness or weakness. It prevents correct response between the brain and the affected nervous area.
How pinched nerve affects us?
Nerve Impingement, or in other words pinched nerve can occur in various parts of our body. They are much more common in the upper part of our body, especially in the neck, spine, elbows and wrists.
A herniated disc in the lower part of the spine, for example, can put pressure on the root of a nerve and cause pain that then radiates down to the back of the leg.
It can also cause nerve pain in the wrist and numbness in the hand, lower arm, and fingers. This is also referred as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in neurology science.
In many cases, nerve compression or in other word pinched nerve may be a temporary condition that can be cured without long-term treatment.
Common causes of nerve compression
- Hormonal alterations such as diabetes, or acromegaly.
- Repeat traumas.
- Irregularly formed fibrocartilage due to aging.
- Degeneration of a disc in the back that presses on the nerve.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
Symptoms of compressed nerve
Some of the signs and symptoms of a pinched nerve, or the compressed nerve are the following:
- Numbness or decreased sensitivity in the nerve area.
- Severe pain or burning sensation that may spread outward.
- Sensation of tingling, or pricking, know as Paraesthesia.
- Muscle weakness in the affected nerve area.
- Frequent feeling as if your foot or hand “fell asleep”. Lack of strength in your hand and finger movement (such as extending and separating the fingers).
- Muscular atrophy in the intrinsic musculature of hand.
How to treat pinched nerve?
Quality rest alone determines how long pinched nerve would take to heal in most cases. With ample rest, exercise and some conservative treatments, most people get relief from a pinched nerve in 4 to 10 weeks.
The pharmacological treatment consists of dexamethasone-type corticosteroids, and it’s not recommended for diabetic patients.
In worse cases surgery is needed to relieve the pain of a nerve impingement, especially for quicker recovery from pinched nerve.
When surgery can help to treat pinched nerve?
Surgical treatment should be the last option to treat pinched nerve, when the symptoms do not improve with conservative treatments, ample rest, physiotherapy and medication, you should consult your doctor.
How surgery is done to cure pinched nerve?
Surgery to treat compressed nerve can be carried out as open or endoscopic surgery. In the second option, the incision of the skin is much smaller, but the internal decompression to which the nerve is subjected must be the same. As the incision is smaller, recovery is faster and less painful.
All the fascias or ligaments that imprison the nerve, must be sectioned until the nerve is perfectly free in all its extension. The wound is covered with a bandage and a bandage is placed to protect the intervened area.
Easy diet to ease your nerve pain!
A bad diet can worsen the discomfort caused by a pinched nerve. Here are some foods that are recommended to decrease the effect of pressure on the nerve:
Nuts: They are one of the main source of magnesium, which is the anti-stress mineral, a natural tranquilizer that relaxes the muscles and that’s found in abundance in nuts, cashews, pine nuts, and almonds.
Chocolate: Best option would be black chocolates without sugar. Although cocoa contains phenylethylamine and alkaloids, which make us stay alert, its consumption is associated psychologically with good times!
Chocolate is a source of magnesium and L-tryptophan, an amino acid that sends signals of well-being to the brain.
Bananas: One of the richest fruits in tryptophan (also present in oats, citrus fruits, figs), amino acid precursor of serotonin and melatonin (hormones that regulate mood and rest).
Banana also gives us potassium, magnesium and vitamin B6.
Sushi: Fish provides tryptophan and algae, magnesium and vitamin B12, to stimulate the recovery of the affected nerve.
Cereals: People who follow low-carbohydrate diets are prone to insomnia, nervousness and anxiety. The intake of complex carbohydrates calms the brain and gives a sense of peace.
We can find them in whole grains (oats, wheat, rice) and their derivatives, such as pasta.
Dairy Products: Drinking a glass of warm milk before sleep helps us fall asleep. Milk, among many other properties, contains tryptophan, which relaxes us and puts us in a good mood, meaning it also relaxes our nerves.
Lettuce: Its leaves contain lactucina, an active principle with tonic and sedative properties on the nervous system. It helps to calm nerves, control palpitations and sleep better.
How to prevent a pinched nerve?
The following measures can help you to avoid pinching a nerve:
- Maintain a good posture, do not cross your legs or lie in the same position for a long time.
- Incorporates strength and flexibility exercises into your physical activity routine.
- Limit repetitive activities and take frequent breaks when you do them.
- Maintain a healthy weight, keep your eyes on your BMI.
- The alternating use of heat and ice helps to reduce inflammation and increase circulation of blood, in this way you will have less pain. Several times a day, ice bags and the heating pad should be used to get great relief.
- Swimming and walking are recommended as the most healthy exercises in this type of pathology.
- It is advisable to take more calcium and potassium to promote healing more quickly. Home foods might not offer sufficient amount of calcium and potassium, it’s better to take supplement in such cases.
- The amount of acidic and caffeinated foods must be eliminated from your diet as it enhances pain and delays the recovery of nerve health.
Pinched nerve, which is also known as impingement of a nerve, or compressed nerve happens randomly, or during heavy task or activity.
The pain feels very sharp, at times unbearable. It usually starts with low muscle pain or random pain in any particular area, especially neck and spine. That then intensify by days, and continue to make you suffer as you put the tissues around the nerve area to work hard.
Nerve compression generally subsides with ample rest, especially by putting muscle of affected areas to rest, in about four to ten weeks you will come out of nerve compression. There are also foods and diet to help you manage nerve pain, while simple lifestyle changes and few good habits can prevent you from a pinched nerve.
In severe cases where no amount of rest or care is helping in reducing nerve compression pain, or pain is so intense that it’s affecting daily life, probably surgery is the best option to recover from a pinched nerve faster.