Some of the most debilitating and frustrating injuries are those that happen to the back. They prevent one from not only being able to participate in exercise and sports, but often make even sleeping and house work more difficult. One problem that can be troublesome, in the lower back especially, is pinched nerves. There are many ways to treat and prevent a pinched nerve and alleviate the extreme pain that it may be causing.
What is a Pinched Nerve?
The spinal cord is packed full of nerves extending from the brain to the lower back. These nerves send messages, or synapses, to the body to keep it functioning. Occasionally, injuries or pressure cause compression on them and create pain. This pain is something that should not be ignored; over time, back pain left untreated can become even more serious and intense. Pinched nerves range in severity, so often you may have one and not realize it until much later. Occasionally, the compressed nerve can not be completely healed, but for the most part, one can manage it through special treatment.
How Do I Know if I Have a Pinched Nerve?
The symptoms of this type of injury are similar to those of other ailments, so often it can be difficult to tell whether or not you are suffering from a pinched nerve. One of the obvious symptoms is sharp pain and discomfort, especially within the lower back region. It may be more powerful when coughing or laughing. Another tell-tale sign of a compressed nerve is numbness or a feeling of “pins and needles” surrounding the area. Many individuals are shocked when they do not experience pain, but a numb or tingly feeling within their back. Even if the area does not hurt, it still may be a pinched nerve, and you should still have it examined by a physician.
Occasionally, sufferers of this type of ailment will also experience muscle weakness around the same area. If you have experienced a noticeable decrease in muscle strength and elasticity in your back, a pinched nerve may be the cause. Some may also notice pains and sensitivity in other areas of the body, like extremities. It is not uncommon for sufferers of compressed nerves to also feel discomfort in legs, arms, knees, and elbows. Regardless, any ailment or pain that is out of the norm should be checked out by a medical professional.
What Types of Treatment Can I Expect for a Compressed Nerve?
The type and amount of treatment necessary when it comes to a pinched nerve really depend on the severity of the problem. Acute compressions may only require muscle strengthening or physical therapy, while more serious ones can require surgery, injections, or medication.
Most doctors will recommend patients take some kind of anti-inflammatory drug, like ibuprofen, to help reduce swelling in the area and reduce pain in the lower back region. Oral corticoseroids can also offer more powerful assistance with muscle swelling. Sometimes, simply giving the area a good deal of rest may also fix the issue.
Less serious pinched nerves can usually be healed or alleviated through rest or physical therapy. A physical therapist will help instruct you what to do to strengthen the surrounding muscles and ease tension on the nerve.
Most recommend you do specific exercises every day, sometimes multiple times, to see the best results and increase muscle strength and stability in the lower back. You may also be asked to wear a splint around your waist, especially when sitting, lifting heavy objects, or performing physical activity to help aid and support lower back muscles and put them into proper alignment.
More serious pinched nerve issues may require the use of powerful medication and/or surgery. Often, compressed nerves are the outcome of leftover scar tissue or pieces of bone that have created a blockage around the spinal cord. They can also occur when individuals rupture or throw off the alignment of a disc within the backbone. Those that have more severe pain that does not respond to physical therapy or less invasive treatments may need surgery to help reduce pressure on the nerve. However, many doctors may try steroid injections or narcotics first, in order to reduce the swelling and any tenderness they may be experiencing.
If you have been experiencing symptoms of a pinched nerve or think you may have an injury to the lower back region, it is extremely important to have it looked at by a medical professional. Even small ailments can become more serious very quickly, and they may be able to instruct you how to combat the pain in your daily life and prevent it from becoming more serious. Visit a physician or chiropractor, and they will be able to help you determine the best treatment and course of action.
How Can I Prevent and Help Pinched Nerves in My Daily Life?
Though we can not always completely guard ourselves against accidents or injuries, we can definitely lessen the chances of them occurring. Often, pinched nerves are not the result of strenuous activity, but rather a stagnant lifestyle. Having an occupation where one sits for the majority of the day can throw off the alignment of the spine and put more pressure on certain areas. Those that do not have the best posture may especially notice some pain and pressure. If you do spend most of the day sitting, make sure that you are using a chair that is ergonomically designed to support the back and release tension. Also, get up and walk or stretch at least every hour to help loosen up back muscles.
Athletes and exercise fanatics may also find that they develop back issues. Especially with weight lifting or other activities that put a lot of strain on back muscles, it is best to wear a brace to keep the spine and discs in alignment. Strengthening the muscles around the spine can also help to prevent pinched nerves because you are less likely to throw out the back or rupture a disc in the vertebrae. Properly stretch before you perform physical activity, as warm muscles are less likely to pull or tear. Also, make sure that you wear supportive footwear; many athletes find that back problems arise when their feet are not properly cushioned during exercise.
Compressed nerves can be very debilitating and get in the way of how individuals live their lives from day to day. However, doing your best to prevent them and treating them early can make all the difference. If you are experiencing lower back pain, make an appointment with a medical professional.