The majority of people that visit a chiropractor come seeking relief for back and neck pain, as the practice is aimed at the spine and its health. But what many people do not realize is that the spine is intertwined with the nerves and that by treating and addressing issues with the spine, neurological problems can be relieved. Pinched nerves are one example of an ailment that can be caused by spinal misalignments, making chiropractic care a great option for the condition.
A pinched nerve is also known as a compressed nerve. Nerves are present throughout the entire body, with the purpose of sending signals between the brain and body. Motor commands begin in the brain, then travel through nerves down the spinal cord, following a nerve path until they reach their destination and instigate a movement. From there, sensory commands experienced in the body travel up through the spinal cord and back to the brain to be processed. Most of the body’s systems rely on these nerves, and when something impedes the nerve path, it can cause a number of issues. One potential way this happens is that a nerve is compressed or pinched along this path.
Any pressure on a nerve can cause a pinched nerve. As a result of this pressure, the nerve’s ability to function is compromised. This can happen when surrounding tissue, bone, or cartilage impedes on the nerve. Common causes of a pinched nerve include:
Most pinched nerves originate in the neck (cervical spine), upper-middle back (thoracic spine), or lower back (lumbar spine). They can also appear in the hand, elbow, or wrist in many cases. The location of the nerve may impact what symptoms you experience and what treatment is most helpful.
When a nerve is compressed, it is primarily impacting the nerve communication between parts of the body and the brain. A feeling of numbness is a common symptom, as is the “pins and needles” feeling. This is similar to the feeling of your foot “falling asleep” when you sit cross-legged for too long but may last longer or be more severe. This can also manifest as a decreased sensation in parts of the body, sharp and burning pain, or shooting sensations similar to shocks.
Severe cases of pinched nerves can also lead to asymmetric muscle weakness, in which one side of the body is much weaker than the other. Many people report that symptoms of a pinched nerve are worse when they are sleeping or early in the morning when they have just woken up.
Some pinched nerves, like those caused by positioning, can be resolved quickly at home. However, if you are experiencing persistent symptoms of a compressed nerve, you should seek medical attention. A chiropractor can help you to relieve the pressure on the nerve and prevent a worsening of the condition.
Pinched nerves can occur as a result of underlying conditions or in response to environmental factors like injuries.
Certain factors can increase the risk of experiencing a pinched nerve, such as:
Most pinched nerves are a result of an injury, either a sudden trauma or an overuse injury from repetitive motions. Certain injuries, like a herniated disc, can contribute to the condition.
However, some chronic conditions can also be a cause of pinched nerves without an injury being present. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common form of pinched nerve, which results from a combination of factors in the hand combined with repetitive use. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, along with degenerative disc disease, are examples of conditions that can cause pinched nerves to happen often.
If you believe you are suffering from a pinched nerve, a chiropractor will begin by asking about your symptoms and performing a physical examination of the area impacted. You should be prepared to answer questions about your family medical history, personal medical history, lifestyle, and any injuries you may have recently sustained. If possible, you can prepare some history of your symptoms, such as how they feel and what makes them better or worse.
When there is no clear cause for the pinched nerve, or if it is recurring, your doctor may order some tests. These can also be used to rule out other, more severe injuries. Some tests you may undergo are:
Once there has been a determination of the location and cause of a pinched nerve, you can work with your chiropractor to make an effective treatment plan. Depending on the identified cause of your condition, treatment may focus on eliminating the issue entirely or on managing and controlling symptoms over time. It is important to understand this cause to prevent permanent nerve damage from occurring.
The majority of pinched nerves can be addressed using non-invasive treatment aimed at aligning the spine and ensuring all tissues are properly supported. When the spine is in proper alignment, tissues and cartilage should not be compressing the nerves. A chiropractor will focus on ensuring spinal alignment and allowing the body’s nerves to communicate properly without interruption.
The primary method of treatment a chiropractor will use is manual adjustments to the spine. Through hands-on techniques, a skilled chiropractor will be able to slowly return the spine to an aligned state and relieve pressure on the nerves. This is the first component of any chiropractic treatment plan and is aimed at addressing the root cause of your pinched nerve, relieving pain and other symptoms. Along with adjustments, your chiropractor may also suggest other non-invasive therapies, such as heat and cold therapy, stretching, and gentle exercises to help your body heal.
A Lithia Springs chiropractor will also focus on prevention and how you can ensure the misalignment does not reoccur. This can include counseling on weight loss and dietary measures, as well as assisting with tools to help improve your posture and create a more ergonomic workspace. Starting with the baseline of an aligned spine and tools to prevent future recurrences, you can experience long-lasting relief from pinched nerves.
After working with a chiropractor, they may recommend additional treatment to complement their adjustments and treatment plan. These usually work to strengthen chiropractic care and act as a complementary form of therapy, though in severe cases, more invasive methods of care may become necessary.
While medication will not directly address the root cause of a pinched nerve, it can be helpful for managing pain and reducing inflammation enough to begin treatment. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium are good over-the-counter options to help with this. Doctors may also prescribe anticonvulsants, like gabapentin, and tricyclic medications, like nortriptyline or amitriptyline, which can also address nerve-related pain.
In long-term issues, corticosteroids can be given by mouth or by injection to address pain and inflammation.
Another common recommendation is to work with a physical therapist alongside your chiropractor. Physical therapists will develop a program with exercises to strengthen and stretch your muscles in the affected area. Not only does this relieve pressure on the nerves, but it can help the body become stronger so that the same issues do not occur later. A physical therapist will also work with you on tricks and tools that can be used to improve posture and the setup of your workspace to prevent pinched nerves.
In rare cases when a pinched nerve doesn’t improve after a few months of conservative treatment, it is possible surgery could be necessary. The type of surgery will vary based on the location of the pinched nerve but can entail removing bone spurs or parts of discs that have herniated. Carpal tunnel can be treated with surgery that severs the ligament, allowing more room for the nerve to pass through the wrist.
The majority of people will recover with home treatment and consistent chiropractic care, though these methods can be useful when they are required.
When you are suffering from pain and numbness as a result of a pinched nerve, your first goal is likely to find relief for these symptoms. A Lithia Springs chiropractor at AICA Orthopedics will work with you to determine the root of your pain and complete adjustments that are targeted at removing the compression from your nerves and relieving symptoms. Once you are feeling better, you can continue working with our experts to return the spine to proper alignment and develop a plan for continuous improvement and prevention.
The chiropractors at AICA Lithia Springs work closely with our other specialists, like physical therapists and pain management experts, to ensure your care plan is holistic and addresses all parts of your health and wellness. We also offer on-site diagnostic imaging to prevent needing to make multiple appointments and deal with multiple bills and providers. If it is determined that you need intervention beyond chiropractic care, orthopedists and neurologists from AICA Lithia Springs will be available to work with you.
Choosing a chiropractor can be overwhelming, but finding someone who will treat you comprehensively and expertly is most important. Contact AICA Lithia Springs today to work with our team and begin finding relief from pinched nerve pain.