What are Trapped Nerves?
Also known as a compressed/pinched nerve, the term refers to various medical conditions affecting nerve roots that leave the spinal canal.
This happens when they are compressed/ irritated due to altered surrounding tissue, a condition generally referred to as radiculopathy.
The irritation commonly occurs in the area around the spine, although it could also happen in other areas. When any nerve root is compressed, signal transmission within the nervous system is tampered with.
What Causes It?
Several conditions could result in nerve irritation.
Herniated Disc: This commonly causes nerve irritation. Intervertebral discs exist between vertebrae bones to prevent them from possibly grinding against each other.
They also cushion the vertebrae from shocks that intense physical activity could cause. The annulus fibrosus is the disc’s tough outer shell while the nucleus pulposus is the core that contains a soft, gel-like material.
A bulging, slipped, or herniated disc results from a cracked or torn annulus fibrosus, causing the soft gel-like material to obtrude through the crack and compress nearby nerve roots. This commonly happens in the lower back.
Spondylosis and other causes: While the exact cause of a slipped disc remains unknown, some common causes may include spondylosis, trauma-related injury, lack of physical activity, long-term poor posture, smoking, and heavy weight-lifting.
The point of pain depends on the specific nerve being compressed. Pain relief medication, physiotherapy, and surgery (in severe cases) are some of the treatment options available.
However, sometimes the gel-like substance compressing the nerve root shrinks away over time and the pain disappears on its own.
Spondylosis may also result in degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, cervical myelopathy, cauda equine, tumours, sciatica, and more.
Diagnostic procedures may include CT scan and MRI scans. In most cases, pain is felt in the neck and arms. Sudden neck movements may provoke severe pain and the patient may also experience pain in the chest, although this is rare.
Are You Experiencing Pain in the Lower Back?
Lumbar Radiculopathy, also known as sciatica, refers to irritation of the lower back nerve roots.
Being the largest single nerve, the sciatic nerve handles movements and sensations targeting larger parts of the legs. Therefore, compression of this nerve could result in various symptoms affecting the legs.
These symptoms may vary in severity, from mild to sharp excruciating pain with debilitating effects. In some cases, patients may feel as if they are being pricked by pins and needles.
Others may experience numbness or tingling sensations radiating from as high as the lower back, all the way down to the toes and entire feet.
In most cases, treatment may include conservative medical management: Osteopathy, physiotherapy and pain relief medication.
This can help rectify your poor posture and exercise can facilitate mobility. Psychological forms of treatment may also help you cope with the various symptoms of trapped nerves.
When pain medication is considered, doctors may prescribe over-the-counter medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and analgesics.
Spinal injections of corticosteroid, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, anticonvulsants, anaesthetic, and other forms of stronger prescription painkillers (opiods) may be used to manage the condition.
Enrolling for a reliable physiotherapy can be helpful in treating conditions related to trapped nerves. Exercising on a regular basis may also help to stretch the muscles and improve mobility, posture, and overall strength.
Pain Management Programmes
These refer to use of various treatments for pain relief and improvement of conditions related to trapped nerve. Patients may experience overall improvement in quality of life.
To administer a pain management program, psychologists, physiotherapists, surgeons, pain management consultants and various health professionals must form a multi-disciplinary team and work together. Chronic pain could negatively impact patient’s quality of life.
Some patients may become less physically active in response to fear of suffering. However, to eliminate these individual physical limitations, the patient might want to enroll for a pain management program that could address some of these issues.
A combination of psychological treatment, medication and physiotherapy might be helpful in assisting patients cope with the negative effects of compressed nerves.
Adopting prevention measures, staying active throughout your life, and seeking immediate medical attention in case of injury could be extremely helpful.
In addition, exercising on a regular basis, upholding correct posture, and adhering to a healthy diet, are all part of ensuring strong bones, tissues and muscles.
A strengthened body helps to reduce the impact of wear and tear associated with ageing and minimises the chances of developing various age-related ailments.
Minimally Invasive Surgery (Keyhole Surgery): Just as the name suggests, this surgical procedure is least invasive and is often the first surgery option to be considered in managing nerve-related conditions.
It involves making small incisions using some form of micro instrument to insert a tubular retractor and make a tiny tunnel to allow access to the patient’s spine by keeping the obstructive muscles away.
This surgery option is less traumatic and the patient recovers quickly, unlike the conventional open surgery that could result in complications and several days in the hospital.
In addition, patients require less post-operative medication and may return to work or resume normal duties as soon as possible.
The surgeon makes one larger incision to provide access to the patient’s spinal column before retracting the nearby muscles and tissue to expose the region that requires medical attention.
However, this is associated with increased risk of complications and lengthy recovery time without guaranteed success.
Other related surgical procedures to help manage trapped nerves include laminotomy, foraminotomy, discectomy and laminectomy.
Risks and Recovery
Risks of Surgery may include adverse reaction to anaesthesia, bleeding, infection and damaged spine. However, patients have differing responses to treatment and this might affect their recovery from surgery.
In addition, the recovery process and duration will largely depend on the type of treatment used as well as the severity of nerve damage prior to surgical treatment.
The doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications to manage the pain and possible swelling. The patient may also need physiotherapy or steroid injections.
Regardless, patients have to practice good posture and adopt ideal sleeping positions to help accelerate the process of recovery.
Is it Possible to Eliminate Trapped Nerves?
Pain-related complications brought about by trapped nerves often disappear by themselves.
For instance, a herniated disc often repairs itself or stops causing trapped nerve pain by relieving the pressure. Regardless, adopting a good posture and making positive lifestyle changes could benefit most patients without the need for medication, unless their condition involves chronic pain.
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