A pinched nerve is a condition where surrounding structures compress upon a nerve altering its motor or sensory functions. This may produce pain, numbness, or weakness. Symptoms may improve if the nerve is compressed for a short period of time but there may be permanent damage with prolonged pressure on the nerves.
Structures compressing on a nerve may include bone, cartilage, muscle or tendons. In slipped disks, nerves exiting and entering your spinal canal become compressed by abnormally positioned disks between your vertebrae. In carpal tunnel syndrome, the median nerve passing through your wrist becomes compressed by structures surrounding its path (tunnel). Pinched nerves may occur with injury, arthritis, poor posture, and repeated activity.
When you present with the above symptoms your doctor performs a physical examination and studies your symptoms in detail. Tests may be performed to assess your nerves (nerve conduction studies) and muscles (electromyography). MRI may be ordered to locate the area of nerve compression.
To treat pinched nerve, you are advised to rest or immobilize the area of concern. Your doctor may advise physical therapy to help strengthen muscles and improve flexibility thereby reducing pressure on the nerve. You may be prescribed steroids and anti-inflammatory medications. If indicated, your doctor may advise an injection to decrease compression of your nerves.