What does the pain of a pinched nerve feel like?

A pinched nerve occurs when excessive pressure is put on a nerve. Pinched nerves can occur in your wrist, such as when you have carpal tunnel syndrome, or in your spine, such as when you have sciatica. The result can be an extremity that hurts, is numb, is weak, or is cold. Severe nerve impingement can cause pain at the point of pinching, or can lead to a feeling of pins and needles, or a burning or poking pain in the extremity. Depending on the severity of the pressure or impingement on the nerve, the pain can be extremely sharp and be increased with sudden movements.

If you’re suffering from sciatic pain, the way that you sleep can either increase or decrease it. Many people suffering from a pinched nerve find that steady, slow movement can reduce the severity of the pain. For those with pinched nerves in the upper back or neck, you may find that, while the nerve pain isn’t constant, you may suffer from stiffness. It may be painful to use your arms or impossible to turn your head.

When a nerve is pinched, it sends a distress call to the rest of the body. The body’s response is often to stiffen up. While not moving can reduce your pain at the moment, easy, slow stretches are a better way to deal with the pain and hopefully gain some relief. For example, if you suffer from a pinched nerve in your upper back or neck, you can reduce your discomfort with slow, careful stretches that don’t stretch to the point of apin. To the best of your ability to move right now,

  • slowly lower your chin toward your sternum and hold for three deep inhalations and exhalations
  • Lift your head back to center
  • Now tilt your head back slowly and let your lips part so your face relaxes
  • Come back to center
  • Lower your right ear toward your shoulder for three counts
  • Come to center again for the last time, then
  • lower your left ear toward your shoulder

Never stretch to the point of pain. NEVER roll your head all the way around on your neck. The human skull is 12 to 14 pounds of fused bone. Even a healthy neck can struggle with this amount of weight getting rolled around.

Rest, Exercise and Ice

You may be tempted to put heat on a pinched nerve to loosen the muscles around the impingement. However, heat can increase inflammation of the soft tissues and may actually make the pinching worse. Ice is a much better option. Try to ice a pinched nerve for 20 minutes every two hours. To make this easier, wet a hand towel and fold it to lay flat in a large Ziploc bag. Place the bag in the freezer. Once it’s frozen, wrap it in a pillow case or paper towels and apply it to the site of the pinched nerve. For sciatica, place it under your low back as you lay flat on your bed. Put a spare pillow under your knees to reduce pressure. If your neck is the problem, lay tummy down on the bed with your chin over the edge. Place the ice on your upper back and neck and place a pillow over that to hold it in place. Bring a puzzle or project and use the timer on your phone to make sure you ice for 20 minutes before putting the ice pack back in the freezer and trying to get on with your day.

If laying down helps you feel better and you want to sleep, pull the ice pack before you nod off. NEVER fall asleep on an ice packet. You can reduce the pain of a pinched nerve with exercise, but it has to be the right kind of exercise and your form has to be perfect. Consult a physical therapist or a personal trainer to use the best body mechanics as you work your way out of a pinched nerve.

Discuss your exercise plans with your chiropractor. He or she may be able to help you make the best decision about what exercises you can carry forward and what you should leave behind. If they tell you to stop working out for a week while your inflammation is reduced, do so. Be prepared for a chiropractic checkup every couple of days as your body fights the inflammation of a pinched nerve. Ready to get started? Call them today at 205-637-1363.

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