The central nervous system is a delightfully complex network of approximately 37 miles of nerve endings. These nerves transport important information to and from the brain, picking up all kinds of information about our bodies and the environment around us. Through these nerve endings we are able experience the 5 senses, sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. While many of these sensations are pleasant, the central nervous system also perceives painful stimulus, like the heat of flame, the prick of a needle, or even discomfort within the body itself. These pain responses provide important feedback about the condition of the body, and if you know how to interpret those signals, they can be useful in helping the body heal itself too. But with so many doctors jumping to surgery and other invasive procedures to treat your condition, you might find yourself wondering: Can a chiropractor help with pinched nerves?
What is a Pinched Nerve?
If you have ever spent too much time sitting at the computer and felt a burning ache in your neck and shoulders, you are already familiar with what a pinched nerve feels like. A pinched nerve refers to any point in the body where tissues, whether comprised of bone, ligaments, or tendons, put pressure on the nerve. This excess pressure causes irritation, resulting in pain and loss of function. While pinched nerves can occur anywhere in the body, the most common place for them to occur is in the spine.
Spinal Structure and Pinched Nerves
The spinal column is one of the most important structures in the human body. Comprised of 33 bones called vertebrae, this bony structure houses the body’s central nervous system. This highly sophisticated network of nerve endings acts as an information highway for the body. The spinal cord acts as the communications hub. All nerves in the body connect to the hub in order to communicate with the brain. Nerves in the body do not have a lot of protection. They can become injured in many ways but typically heal quickly with a bit of rest or physical therapy. But the spinal cord itself runs through the center of the vertebrae. The vertebrae protect the spinal cord and they do a really good job of it. However, these same structures can be a source of injury if the vertebrae become compressed or misaligned.
The thick plates of cartilage called discs, that separate the vertebrae can also be a source of injury. These discs provide cushioning between the bones and allows the spine to flex and twist without discomfort. Buy, if a disc becomes torn it can put pressure on nerves and cause discomfort on top of allowing painful bone on bone contact.
Additionally, these discs help maintain proper spacing in the intervertebral foramen. These foramen, or holes on either side of the bony projection on the back of each vertebrae, are where nerves enter the spinal column. As these discs wear down, tear, or become compressed the foramen become smaller, putting pressure on the nerve roots. This wear and tear most often occurs through natural aging, injury, or poor posture. Poor posture and injury can also lead to misalignment in the spine. When vertebrae are frozen in an incorrect position it can exert pressure on the spinal cord itself or on the nerve roots.
Pinched nerves are also common in the elbows and wrists. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common types of pinched nerve. Compressed nerves can lose as much as 60% of functionality. If left untreated it may result in permanent loss of function.
Pinched Nerve Symptoms
The symptoms a patient with a pinched nerve experiences depends on where the pinched nerve is located. However, the most common symptoms include:
Other common symptoms may also include:
- A burning or ‘pins and needles’ sensation
- Muscle weakness, especially with certain activities
- Impaired mobility
The location of the pinched nerve has a direct impact on what symptoms you experience. The symptoms may occur in the immediate area or radiate out into other parts of the body.
For example, a pinched nerve in the cervical spine causes both pain in the neck itself but may also cause mid-back and shoulder pain as well. A pinched nerve in the neck may also cause a burning sensation at the site as well as tingling and numbness in one or both hands. As where a pinched nerve in the lower back, also called sciatica, may radiate pain down the back of one or both legs as well as cause tingling and numbness in the feet. Patients who often sleep with their elbows bent, or who spend a lot of time leaning on their elbows may experience tingling and numbness through the center of the forearm, down to the ring finger. They may also experience sudden loss of strength in the hand, especially when rotating the wrist.
How Can a Chiropractor Help with Pinched Nerves?
The recommended treatment for pinched nerves varies based on the age and nature of the injury. Providing relief to pinched nerves sometimes requires surgery, especially in cases involving significant scarring. However, here at Freedom Health Center, we take an integrative approach to chiropractic care for pinched nerves. We are dedicated to finding the best minimally invasive, non-surgical solutions for our patients. Through consulting with physicians from multiple disciplines we will develop a care plan specifically designed to meet your needs.
Chiropractic medicine is a multifaceted practice. It focuses on restoring proper alignment to the spine to enable the body to heal itself. Chiropractors do this through the use of spinal manipulation. During spinal manipulation a chiropractor applies pressure and other therapies to release any vertebrae frozen in an incorrect position. Which type of adjustment you require will depend on the nature of your complaint but may include spinal manipulation and mobilization, cervical spine decompression, spinal rehabilitation, or vibration traction. Some misalignments are minor, easily corrected in as few as one visit. Other misalignments are severe and may require a more intensive program.
Options for Chiropractor Help with Pinched Nerves
If structures or nerves have deteriorated as a result of lost function, a chiropractor may recommend regenerative therapies. Therapies such as stem cell therapy helps restore function by repairing damaged nerves and structures.
Physical therapy is another way that a chiropractor can help with pinched nerves. Spinal misalignments cause or can be caused by imbalances in the muscles of the back. Some muscles become tense and lose mobility while others become overworked. Restoring balance to the strength and flexibility of these muscles groups helps to maintain proper alignment and prevent re-injury. Where other structures of the body are concerned, physical therapy focuses on strengthening supporting muscle groups. Correcting issues of posture and form when performing repetitive tasks also helps to prevent re-injury.
With our muti-discipline approach to chiropractic care for pinched nerves, you can rest assured we will find a care plan that works best for your unique case.