Trapped nerve describes back and other problems that occur when nerves get compressed, irritated or trapped often between bones in the spine or neck. This is also called a pinched nerve or compressed nerve.
Anatomy: Nerves are the body’s information highways that travel everywhere in the body, sending instructions to muscles from the brain and receiving reports back from the senses, such as touch; nerves can be related to either sensory or motor function. Nerves exit the spine between the spinal vertebrae and can pass through, under or around joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs and fascia.
Symptoms: These vary depending on where the nerve is trapped, especially its location in the spine. You may feel sensations such as pins and needles or numbness in the foot or hand or other part of the body as though it has ‘fallen asleep’. You may experience muscle weakness such as a dropped foot or weakness in hand strength. You may feel pain such as burning, muscle pain or a pain radiating outwards from the trapped nerve; in extreme cases you may feel a sharp pain or electric shock sensation. An example is sciatica, where the sciatic nerve in the lower back is trapped and radiates down the leg. Pain that is further away from where the nerve is trapped may be called referred pain. Trapped nerves near the top of your neck may cause headaches.
Causes: Common causes are from poor posture, injury, over stretching and work or sport related wear and tear. Basically anything that can squeeze a nerve such as tension in joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia that the nerve passes through or near; carpal tunnel syndrome, spinal stenosis, etc. Also, anything that occupies extra space such as a herniated (slipped) or bulging disc in the neck and spine, arthritis, bone spurs and swelling, including during pregnancy.
Diagnosis: This is usually based on symptoms, medical history and other health conditions as well as any obvious causes, such as accidents. Diagnosis may include physical examination, X-ray, CT scan, MRI scan or electromyography (EMG) nerve conduction study. A trapped nerve can be made harder to diagnose when the area causing the pain is different from the area where the pain is felt.
Treatment: Depends on the individual circumstances and causes and may include rest to avoiding aggravating the nerve, ice packs placed on the affected area, anti-inflammatory medication, manual therapy, splints, supports or collars or surgery. Intervertebral Differential Dynamics (IDD) therapy is a non-surgical spinal decompression treatment for back pain, neck pain and related conditions such as sciatica.
Prevention: Stretching, warming up and cooling down for sports and workouts; wearing the right equipment such as good trainers, etc. Develop good postural habits and consider ergonomics, particularly how you sit at your desk, on the couch when watching television or when using your phone or laptop.
Osteopathic/Manual Management: Take a detailed case history to understand the nature of the problem and surrounding issues. Examine the spine, neck and all areas leading to the site of pain; muscles, ligaments, nerves, fascia, etc., for movement, strength and functionality and assess motor nerve pathways. Consider the effect of the condition on the whole body. Perform orthopaedic and neurological tests. Treat to reduce any swelling, muscle tension and pain and improve joint alignment. Advice regarding specific strengthening and stretching exercises as well as postural/ lifestyle advice. Treatment may include manipulation, deep soft tissue massage, trigger point therapy, muscle energy techniques, fascial techniques, dry needling, etc.
We are happy to advise you on your health matters and offer a free 15 minute joint and spinal check, without obligation.
Lin Bridgeford DO KFRP MICAK MICRA FSCCO MSc
Registered Osteopath & Kinesiologist & Yoga Teacher
Aether Bios Clinic