Woman with a pinched nerve in the neck.

How can I tell if I have a pinched nerve and what can be done about it?

We all know the sensation of being pinched — a sharp compressive sensation on the skin. Even after the fingers or shoe or hinge stop compressing our skin or flesh, we can still feel the pain; we may end up with a bruise or cut to remind us of the small assault. Nonetheless, pinch injuries to the skin usually do little permanent damage.

When a nerve in the back, neck, wrist or elsewhere on the body is pinched, however, the pain can be severe and prolonged and usually takes some type of medical intervention to be relieved. At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, we have the most up-to-date diagnostic equipment and the most innovative treatment available to determine [1] whether your pain is caused by a pinched nerve [2] precisely where the pinched nerve causing you trouble is located and [3] what is the least invasive way to relieve your suffering.

When To Suspect a Pinched Nerve May Be Causing Your Pain

If you are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms, a pinched nerve may be causing the trouble:

  • Diminished sensation or numbness 
  • Sharp, burning pain, possibly radiating from a particular location
  • Tingling sensation (pins and needles)
  • Muscle weakness in the affected area

While some patients come to us because of low-level pinched nerve pain that is distracting or intrusive, some come to us with excruciating pain, disturbing numbness or tingling sensations that make it difficult or impossible to perform daily chores or to engage in work activities. You should be aware that, left untreated, pinched nerves may cause extreme extreme pain and can lead to weakness or much more rarely, conditions of paralysis or loss of bladder or bowel control.

Remember that pain from a pinched nerve may be radicular in nature, that is, you may feel the pain at some distance from the site of the nerve compression. A good example of this is sciatica, in which a pinched sciatic nerve in the lower back can cause pain down the leg and even into the foot.

Risk Factors for Experiencing a Pinched Nerve

The following factors may increase your risk of experiencing a pinched nerve:

  • Being female — Women are at greater risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome (affecting the wrist), possibly due to the fact that they have smaller carpal tunnels
  • Bone spurs — Bone spurs, which may be caused by osteoarthritis or by traumatic injury, often narrow the space through which nerves travel, resulting in pinched nerves (this is common in the spinal column where the problem is known as spinal stenosis, as well as the elbow and heel)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis — The inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis can compress nerves, particularly in the joints
  • Certain disease conditions, including thyroid disease and diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Prolonged inactivity (as after a serious illness, accident, or extensive surgery)

If you suspect that a pinched nerve is at the root of your ongoing or increasing pain or disability, make sure to consult with a highly qualified team of rehabilitative medicine doctors who will focus on relieving your pain with noninvasive methods.

Diagnosing a Pinched Nerve

Just because you suspect that you have a pinched nerve does not mean that your self-diagnosis is correct. It is important to consult with a doctor who specializes in the spine and joints in order to have your condition properly diagnosed. A thorough physical examination and medical history will be necessary, as will appropriate diagnostic testing which may include:

  • Nerve conduction study to determine whether you have a damaged nerve
  • Electromyography (EMG) to evaluate the electrical activity of your muscles
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to produce detailed views of your body
  • High-resolution ultrasound to create images of your body through sound waves

If these sophisticated diagnostic tests indicate that you do, in fact, have a pinched nerve, Long Island Spine has many noninvasive ways of treating you, ranging from simple, effective remedies to cutting-edge methods, depending on the specifics of your case. 

Treatments for Pinched Nerves

An immediate, relatively mild injury (due to a sports mishap or lifting a package the wrong way) may be effectively treated with rest, activity modification, ice packs/heat packs, taping, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS), and/or assistive devices to keep you from incurring further harm. On the other hand, if your pinched nerve is more serious, we may have to use one of the following treatments:

  • Physical therapy to stabilize and strengthen the affected joint
  • Ultrasound or fluroscopically guided injections of analgesics and corticosteroid to lessen pain and reduce inflammation
  • Gel injections to lubricate the joint with hyaluronic acid (to date only used on the knee)
  • Platelet-rich plasma therapy to promote healing
  • Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF) to improve oxygenation and circulation

In the most severe cases, such as stenosis complicated by a bone spur, or a severely herniated disc that causes persistent pain, surgery may be necessary. 

You Can Depend on Us to Help You Avoid Surgery Whenever Possible

At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, however, we go out of our way to treat pinched nerves, as well as other injuries of disease conditions of the spine and joints, in the least invasive ways possible. Our mission is to help your body heal itself by opening the pathways to decreased inflammation, improved circulation, and proper energy flow. Contact us soon so you can start feeling better right away.