Nerve compression is simply the formal term for a “pinched nerve.” This occurs when excess pressure is applied to an area of the body and the nerve’s function is disrupted. Nerve compression can occur anywhere in the body and ranges from moderate to severe. While most nerve compressions do not require medical attention, some severe pinched nerves may cause chronic, debilitating pain.
Anything that puts pressure on your nerve and the surrounding tissue can cause nerve compression. Generally, it is bone, cartilage, muscles or tendons that compress the nerve. There are a number of conditions and factors that may cause the compression, including:
- Repetitive motions
- Staying in one position for a prolonged period of time
Any of these may be the cause of the compression interfering with the nerve’s function.
Symptoms can differ drastically when it comes to nerve compressions. Some people’s symptoms may only last a short while, while for others, the symptoms are chronic. The most common symptom of nerve compression is pain. However, additional signs of nerve compression include:
- A “pins and needles” sensation
- Muscle weakness
- Decreased sensation
Nerve compression can happen almost anywhere in the body. It occurs most commonly in the wrist, arms, back and neck. Symptoms may worsen when trying to move the affected area of the body.
Treatment for nerve compression varies on the severity of the symptoms. Typically, the best way to heal nerve compression is through rest. You may need to stop the activity causing the compression until your nerve has time to heal. A splint or brace may also be used to prevent overuse of the affected area.
If simply allowing the pinched nerve to rest does not help, your doctor may recommend additional treatment. Physical therapy is used to strengthen and stretch the muscles. This can help ease pressure on the nerve, alleviating pain.
In some extreme cases where rest and therapy are not enough, surgery may be needed to treat the nerve compression. While the type of surgery performed differs based on the location of the nerve compression, it is done to simply take pressure off the nerve.