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Pinched Nerves and Nerve Damage

Accidents and injuries often lead to pinched nerves in the neck and back. A slip and fall, auto accident, collision, a jarring hit, sports injury or repetitive use can often result in pinched nerves. Sometimes pinched nerves come about from old injuries after disc degeneration has reached the point where the intervertebral foramina (holes the nerves use to exit the spine) has become so small it pinches the nerve.

Symptoms of Pinched Nerves

  • Neck pain
  • Mid- or lower-back pain
  • Headaches
  • Spinal pain
  • Pain radiating down their arm or leg
  • Shoulder pain
  • Numbness, tingling, pain or burning sensation in the arms, hands, legs, or even toes

Pinched nerve in neck causing painPeople suffering from pinched nerves may also experience a limited range of motion, trouble sitting for long periods of time, have difficulty in standing from a seated position, problems bending forward or backward, and even sleeping in various positions. A pinched or irritated nerve may even cause muscle spasms in addition to pain. Furthermore, because the nerves control and coordinate the functions of the muscles and internal organs, pinched nerves can potentially lead to other health problems.

Four Basic Causes of Pinched Nerves

Pinched nerves can result from any combination of the following four causes, including all four simultaneously. In just about all four of these causes, due to irritation or inflammation, pinched nerves may also sometimes result in a chemical neuritis, which means that the nerves can be irritated chemically from the inflammatory process as well.

  1. Subluxation or Misalignment of the spine
    A subluxation is a misalignment or mal-alignment of a vertebrae that puts pressure on, or irritates, a spinal nerve. Subluxations, or misalignments, can cause pain or muscle spasms. Subluxations are quite common after accidents or any hard jolt to the body.

  2. Disc Protrusions or Disc Herniation
    This is when the jell like substance (nucleus pulposus) in the middle of the disc herniates out through the outer ring called the annulus fibrosis. A herniated disc can press on a nerve or the spinal cord. Normal movements can cause the herniated disc to rub against the nerve causing pain and irritations. The worse the disc protrusion, the greater the pressure that is placed on the nerve, causing a pinched nerve. (The graphic to the right shows a herniated disc pressing against a nerve in the spine. (Highlighted in red.)

  3. Disc Degeneration
    The spinal disc is the cushion or the spacer between the bones, and functions kind of like a shock absorber. When the disc starts to lose its height, or gets thinner, the disc has started to degenerate (degenerative disc disease). When a disc degenerates the hole that the nerve comes out becomes smaller. The hole the nerves exit your spine from are called the intervertebral foramina. As that hole goes from bigger to smaller due to disc degeneration, it allows less room for that nerve to exit and can put pressure on the nerve. Disc degeneration is common after an injury that has caused a subluxation, or the proper movement of the vertebrae is impeded. Because this can take time to happen, a pinched nerve due to disc degeneration, may have been caused by an old injury.

  4. Osteoarthritis
    Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease. Because there are joints on the backside of the intervertebral foramina (the hole where the nerve comes out), sometimes osteoarthritis causes degeneration or bone spurs, which crowd into the hole (intervertebral foramina) and actually put pressure on the nerve.

Treatment of Pinched Nerves

When a patient visits our office with symptoms of a pinched nerve, and they’re having any of the previously mentioned symptoms, the first thing we do is a comprehensive consultation including a health history. We also do a full examination with orthopedic, neurological, chiropractic, and physical exam tests to check and see if our patient has interference to the nerves. To discover what the underlying cause of the problem is we will test reflexes, do sensory testing, and various orthopedic and neurological tests.
Often, we will have x-rays taken of the spine to determine exactly what the spinal alignment looks like, see if there is any disc degeneration, as well as look to see if there is any osteoarthritis which can be affecting or putting pressure on the nerves.

Once our exams and tests are complete, we will design the best treatment plan specifically for that patient to not only alleviate the pain, but to correct the underlying cause of the problem, and strengthen and stabilize the affected area. If needed we will refer the patient out for an MRI or to other Medical specialists such as an Orthopedist or Neurologist.

What Happens When a Pinched Nerve Goes Untreated?

If a pinched nerve goes uncorrected, or untreated, the cause of the problem — whether it be a misalignment, disc degeneration, osteoarthritis, disc herniation, or a combination of all four — will continue to get worse. Whenever a bone in the spine is misaligned and not moving properly the body will go through degenerative changes. It is important to understand that if someone has a degenerative process going on and you treat it properly and maintain it, you can stop it from getting worse. If you do not correct the underlying cause of the problem, the problem will get progressively worse, and then some people will end up in the situation where they will need surgery. Our goal at Long Island Spine & Sports Injury Center is to find and correct this problem, and to prevent someone from having to go through surgery.

Why Choose Chiropractic Care for Pinched Nerves

Did you know that pinched nerves can manifest themselves throughout your entire body? A chiropractor can help you discover whether your pain is from a pinched nerve. Left untreated pinched nerves will only get worse and in a worst case scenario will require surgery.

Chiropractic care’s treatment of pinched nerves is designed to find and correct the underlying problem, and not to just treat the symptoms. In our office, from a treatment standpoint, once we have figured out exactly what the underlying cause of the problem is, we put our patients into a treatment plan to correct the problem. Typically to correct this we are doing Active Release Therapy and Chiropractic adjustments, where we are moving the spine from the misaligned, into the better, proper position that increases the range of motion of the joints. We also work to alleviate or take the pressure off the nerve itself. In conjunction with this, we design a program of specific rehabilitative exercises that will strengthen and stabilize the affected area. Some of the other things we may recommend if needed are traction, electric muscle stimulation, heat and cold therapy, massage therapy, as well as stretching and increasing the range of motion of the joints. All of these treatments are designed to not only get someone out of pain, but to correct the underlying cause of the problem and prevent this from progressing.

Unfortunately, when a lot of people in our society have the symptoms of a pinched nerve the first thing that they turn to is some kind of over-the-counter medication or prescribed medication, which helps to decrease or alleviate the pain or the inflammation. Obviously, it makes someone feel better, but since it does not correct the underlying cause of the problem, the problem will not get corrected and usually will continue to get worse and may get to the point where sometimes it is uncorrectable.

Contact us at (631) 462-0917 to arrange for a consultation. Dr. Gary Olson will identify the underlying cause of your pinched nerve and put together an individualized plan to correct it. If any of your friends and family can benefit from this article, please recommend this article to them.

© 2017-18 Dr. Gary Olson DC, PC, The Long Island Spine & Sports Injury Center

These articles are the property of Dr. Gray Olson DC, PC. They may not be reused without permission. You are welcome to link to this article. Dr. Gary Olson has been proudly serving Long Island, NY since 1999.

The contents of this website are based upon the opinions and experience of Dr. Olson. The information on this site is not intended as medical advice. The information contained on this website is a sharing of knowledge based on the experience, training, and research of Dr. Olson. Dr. Olson recommends that patients make their health care decisions after doing their research and consulting with a qualified health care professional.

Contact us at 631.462.0917 to set an appointment.