The entire body is served by a complex network of nerves, all of which branch off from a singular location, the back. The sheer expansiveness of the nervous system makes it easy to see that problems like impingement or entrapment could occur. Because the spinal column is also highly sophisticated in structure, the opportunity for nerves to get compressed or trapped is significant. For a nerve to get trapped or compressed can be painful. Here, we look at the potential reason for this problem and the diagnosis and treatment for a trapped nerve.
The Why and What of Trapped Nerves
There are several reasons why nerves may become trapped somewhere along the spinal pathway. Often, entrapment occurs at the spine, where nerves pass through a movable structure of bones and discs. If discs degenerate with age or shift due to an injury or poor posture, the nerve exiting the area of breakdown has less space through which to travel. Hence, compression and entrapment.
If a nerve gets trapped, several symptoms may occur. These include:
- Pain such as aching, burning, or cramping
- Difficulty achieving a wide range of motion
- Sensation of stiffness
- Numbness in the back, neck, or extremities
- Muscle weakness
- A tingling, pins-and-needles sensation
Diagnosing and Treating Trapped Spinal Nerves
Many people struggle needlessly with the symptoms of trapped spinal nerves. There may be a fear that a spinal specialist would recommend surgery for any back problem. This is not the case. The benefit of seeing a spinal specialist for any pain that lingers or recurs frequently is that this doctor has extensive familiarity with the spine and neuro-pathways. A spinal surgeon is skilled at the proper techniques to adeptly investigate the true source of pain. For example, connecting the dots between tingling in the leg and a spinal disc or compressed nerve in the low back. When the source of pain is identified and evaluated, proper treatment can be discussed.
In most cases, conservative, nonsurgical interventions are considered before surgery is discussed. The cause of pain may respond well to medication, physical therapy, rest, and other modifications. Surgery is often the option considered when pain does not respond as expected to other therapies.