Healing a pinched nerve

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

A pinched nerve can be a very annoying and painful condition.

Pinched nerves occur when a nerve becomes compressed. This can happen as a central issue (neck or low back) or more peripherally. Symptoms may include pain that affects the area around the nerve, weakness, numbness and a tingling sensation. Areas of the body that are commonly affected by pinched nerves include the wrist, elbow, neck, back, and ankle.

Nerves tend to heal slowly. The nerves heal from the "top down", and depending on how much damage is done at the time the nerve becomes impinged (pinched), it may take weeks to months for the nerve to fully to heal.

Treatment of neural impingement is directed at relieving the pain and then allowing the nerve to heal on its own. Nerves need both inflammation and pressure to be painful, so either relieving the inflammation or the pressure can relieve the pain.

A pinched nerve often needs no additional treatment other than rest. When the nerve is not given a chance to rest, the symptoms may persist or possibly worsen.

Ice will increase the blood flow to the deep structures (nerves, muscles, and ligaments), and help reduce swelling.

Anti-inflammatory drugs may work.

Physical therapy and chiropractic can be useful if it decreases the muscle spasm or tightness of the muscle.

As with physical therapy and chiropractic, massage can temporarily decrease muscle spasm and increase blood flow.

Epidural steroid injection can be quite helpful to relieve central pain. It should be administered only with ultrasound or fluoroscopic guidance.

Peripheral nerve entrapment (elbow, carpal tunnel, ankle [tarsal tunnel])can be treated using ultrasound-guided hydrodissection nerve release. Surgery is rarely needed.

Surgery is always a last resort for either central or peripheral pinched nerves.

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