Symptoms of pinched nerve
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
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A pinched nerve refers to a condition where there is nerve root irritation or nerve root compression. This nerve problem can occur either in the spine or in a more peripheral location. Symptoms include numbness, "pins and needles" or burning sensations, and pain radiating outward from the injured area.
Numbness, a loss of feeling or sensation, is due to damage to the nerve. Numbness is often associated with abnormal pain-like sensations often described as pins-and-needles, prickling or burning sensations; these are called paresthesias. Numbness is loss of sensation whereas paralysis usually involves both the loss of the ability to move the area and loss of sensation.
Paresthesias usually result from nerve damage due to pressure (such as a pinched nerve), nerve entrapment, or diseases. Continued nerve damage can lead to numbness.
Paresthesias can affect various parts of the body. Hands, fingers, and feet are common sites.
Parethesias with simple causes such as entrapment are usually reversible. Certain other nerve conditions such as peripheral neuropathy (often from diabetes), lupus complications, Guillain-Barre syndrome, or multiple sclerosis are also possible causes of parethesias. These are much more difficult to treat and resolution of symptoms is rare (with the exception of Guillain-Barre).
Pain is another symptom and it varies in intensity and level.
With pinched nerves in the neck, a patient may complain of numbness, tingling, or pain radiating from the shoulder into the hand. Pain also radiate up the back of the head or into the upper back or chest. Weakness in the arm may also occur.
Pain due to a pinched nerve in the low back causes sciatica, a severe pain that radiates down the posterior leg into the buttock and down the back of the leg. The pain may radiate to the foot. Weakness in the leg may also occur.
Pain due to a pinched nerve in the thoracic spine can cause pain in the mid back, shoulder blade, and chest.
Peripheral nerve entrapment- carpal tunnel syndrome in the hand or tarsal tunnel syndrome in the foot- may also cause numbness, tingling, and pain. Ulnar nerve entrapment can cause paresthesias radiating down the arm to the fourth and fifth fingers.
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