At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, our doctors are known for our effective, nonsurgical treatment of painful disorders — a category into which pinched nerves certainly fit. Anyone who has ever had a pinched nerve is unlikely to forget the experience. At worst, the pain is excruciating — sharp, stabbing, often radiating so that it extends beyond the point of origin.
Treating a pinched nerve can be as tricky as it is urgent. Our doctors are physiatrists — physicians who specialize in pain management and restoration of function — so we are well-equipped to treat this particular problem. If you suspect that you are suffering from a pinched nerve, contact one of our conveniently located offices as soon as possible so we can help you find relief. We have excellent diagnostic skills and equipment and offer several treatment options for pinched nerves. Once you come in, we will be able to pinpoint the source of your pain and get busy alleviating it.
What causes a pinched nerve?
As the name suggests, a pinched nerve is compressed by surrounding tissues. Since nerve pain is known to be among the most unendurable kinds of pain, it is no surprise that when pressure is applied to a nerve the pain can be unbearable. Depending on where the nerve is in the body, the tissue compressing the nerve root may be bone, cartilage, muscle, tendon, or ligament. The compression may be the result of an abnormal protrusion of bone, a swelling of tendon sheaths, or a degeneration of a disc or ligament.
Reasons nerves become pinched include:
- Traumatic injury
- Rheumatoid or osteoarthritis
- Repetitive stress
- Sports activities
As you might expect, If a nerve is only pinched for a short time, it may stop hurting once the pressure abates. If the pressure continues, however, as is the case with most of our patients, not only chronic pain but permanent nerve damage may result.
Symptoms of Pinched Nerves Indicating the Need for Pinched Nerve Treatment
Patients with pinched nerves may suffer a number of distressing symptoms, including:
- Numbness or decreased sensation
- Sharp, burning pain or deep aching, either of which may radiate
- Tingling, pins and needles sensations
- Muscle weakness
Because pinched nerves can occur just about anywhere in the body, and because the resulting sensations can radiate, you may experience pinched nerve pain at some distance from the site. For example, a pinched nerve in your wrist may cause pain, weakness, or numbness in your hand and fingers as well as in your wrist (carpal tunnel syndrome). Similarly, a herniated disc in your lower (lumbar) spine may put pressure on the root of a nerve that reaches down your leg, causing you severe pain in your thigh or lower on the leg.
Are there risk factors that make pinched nerves more likely to occur?
While anyone can suffer a pinched nerve, the following factors may increase your risk:
- Being female
- Traumatic injuries
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Thyroid disease
Correct Treatment of Pinched Nerves Requires Precise Diagnosis
At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, we consider precise diagnosis to be the underpinning of successful treatment. For this reason, we are extremely careful in determining the cause and exact location of your problem. After taking a thorough medical history and performing a methodical physical exam, we may decide to administer one or more of the following diagnostic tests:
- Nerve conduction study
- Electromyography (EMG)
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan.
- High-resolution ultrasound-guided injections into musculoskeletal tissue to show where your pain originates
- Diagnostic medial branch block to find out whether your pain is coming from the facet joints of your spine
- Discography to find out whether your nerve pain originates in a spinal disc
Treatments for Pinched Nerves Offered by Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine
The first treatment we routinely prescribe for a pinched nerve is resting of the affected area. Before we can relieve your pain and other symptoms, we have to take steps to stop you from worsening it. Whether we determine that playing golf, knitting, typing, or throwing a frisbee for your dog is the culprit, you will have to stop the activity before we can help to resolve your problem.
Splinting/Bracing/Taping to Prevent Further Damage of Pinched Nerves
Depending on where your pinched nerve is located, you may well need an external device to immobilize the area. Certain areas of the body are especially difficult to keep from reinjuring — such as the neck, shoulder, or wrist. We may determine that the impacted area should be taped, braced, or splinted to keep you from moving it inadvertently, particularly during the night. This is because during sleep, most people flex, bend, and extend in ways that can’t be predicted or controlled, and many of the positions you assume during sleep may be detrimental to healing.
Physical Therapy for a Pinched Nerve
At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, physical therapy treatments for pinched nerves are customized to meet the needs of each patient. Because our offices are run by well-trained medical doctors, our physical therapists are exceptionally well-trained and adept.
They will teach you ways to move that will strengthen and stretch the muscles in the affected area to relieve pressure on the nerve causing the trouble. Also, by asking the correct questions, they will determine which of your everyday chores, hobbies, and exercises, while not causative, may have to be avoided during the healing process. They will guide you through gentle exercises, both passive and active, designed to stretch and strengthen adjacent muscles so that pressure is taken off the impacted nerve.
Our doctors generally recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen. For those who cannot tolerate these substances (e.g. those on blood-thinners), we recommend acetaminophen (Tylenol). As much as possible, we stay away from prescribing opioids to avoid the tragic (all too common) consequences of addiction.
Injections of Corticosteroids and Analgesics may help minimize pain and inflammation. Such injections can provide rapid relief for pinched nerve pain, making it possible for patients to engage in the physical therapy sessions which will further assist in returning normal functionality.
Complementary Medicine Treatments
As physiatrists, our doctors follow a pragmatic, holistic approach to health and so administer alternative treatments of pinched nerves that have a track record of success in reducing inflammation and accelerating healing, including:
All of the treatments we offer for pinched nerves are nonsurgical and easy to tolerate. In the rare cases in which pinched nerves require a surgical procedure, we will refer you to one of our capable surgical colleagues.
Contact L.I. Spine Rehabilitation Medicine for Prompt Treatment of Pinched Nerves
Our focus on pain relief and rehabilitation is the perfect antidote to the suffering associated with pinched nerves. Call us today for an appointment so that you can begin 2021 pain-free, relaxed, and ready for the New Year.