A pinched or a trapped nerve occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by the surrounding tissues, such as bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons. This pressure disrupts the nerve’s function, causing pain, tingling, numbness or weakness.
Pinched nerves can occur anywhere in the body, but it mostly happens in the neck, back, elbows and wrists. A pinched nerve in the spine, or cervical radiculopathy, can radiate in the neck, and the pain and numbness can affect the shoulder and arm.
Signs and symptoms of a pinched nerve include tingling or burning sensation, numbness, pain and muscle weakness that worsen while you lie down or just after you wake up.
A person suffering from a pinched nerve is also at risk of other problems such as sciatica, tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Below are some remedies that may help you relieve the symptoms of pinched nerves:
Ice and heat packs
Ice is known to numb pain and reduce swelling, while heat improves circulation. Alternating between heat and ice packs – known as contrast therapy – can help reduce pain and inflammation on a trapped nerve.
Hold an ice pack over the affected area for about 15 minutes at a time, three times a day to help reduce inflammation. Heat pads can be applied for a longer period: up to one hour for three times a day.
Extra sleep and rest
Getting adequate sleep and rest is enough to allow the pinched nerve to heal on its own. It is also important not to overuse the affected area, as it can worsen the nerve damage. As much as possible, avoid any movements that might irritate the nerve. You can also try sleeping in a position that relieves the pressure on the nerve.
Correcting your posture
A pinched nerve may be caused by poor posture. Sitting or standing with an incorrect posture for extended periods of time puts unnecessary stress on the body, which may damage the spine and muscles, leading to a pinched nerve.
Use cushions, adjustable chairs and neck rests when sitting to help relieve pressure and allow the nerve to heal.
People suffering from pinched nerves can also try making changes in their work areas. When working on a computer, raise the monitor to eye level to help reduce neck pain and symptoms of “text neck”.
Using a standing workstation can help keep the spine moving and flexible, which could reduce back pain.
There are also a number of ergonomic workstations with various positional options suitable for different types of pinched nerve.
Pain relieving medications
They may not be able to completely heal pinched nerves, but non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce inflammation that may be putting pressure on the nerve. NSAIDs include medicines like ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen and are available for purchase over-the-counter.
As with any medication, it is important to always first consult with a doctor for dosage recommendations and any potential side effects before using NSAIDs.
Stretching and yoga
Gentle stretching and yoga may be practical options in managing pain from a pinched nerve. Certain poses can help take pressure off the nerve and help relieve tension. It is important not to stretch too deeply, as this may make symptoms worse. Consistent practice can strengthen the muscles and the surrounding nerves and may even help prevent future pinched nerves from reoccurring.
If a person experiences any pain or discomfort while exercising, they should stop immediately to avoid damaging the nerve any further.
Massage or physical therapy
Massages can be helpful in reducing muscle spasm and pain, but only light, therapeutic massage should be used. Deep tissue massages may not be a good idea because the extra pressure may make the symptoms worse.
You may also undergo physical therapy, using a combination of exercises, massages and gentle stretches that can help relieve symptoms. You may also undergo cervical traction as a decompression therapy to remove pressure on the nerve. Traction is one of the best pinched nerve treatment options and can be done in an office setting or can be done at home with the use of specially designed traction devices.
Your doctor may also recommend you to use cervical support braces, which are used to help restrict harmful motions and help support the muscles. There are many types of braces, ranging from soft collars to more rigid braces. A collar in general should not be too restricting and it should provide some measure of support and comfort. This is usually worn during the initial stages of healing and helps in reducing muscle spasm.
In the long-term, adding a low-impact exercise, such as walking, swimming or bicycling, to your daily routine may help reduce symptoms and keep the body in shape. Losing extra weight can help reduce pressure on the nerves, and the added mobility from a regular workout may reduce inflammation.
Stretching before or after low-impact exercises can help keep the body flexible and reduce pressure and inflammation near the nerves.
If all conservative treatments fail to provide relief or resolution, surgery may be an option. Surgical methods vary depending on the condition and the surgeon. This is usually a last resort, unless your doctor determines specific indications for surgery from the beginning.
Got a question, or anything I can help with? My name is Steve Stretton, and I’m the owner and manager at Gelpacks.com. You can drop me a line here. Good luck!