A trapped nerve is a condition that occurs due to nerve compression by surrounding tissues. With this condition, the nerve root becomes inflamed or injured, which can be both painful and debilitating.
If you have a trapped nerve, then it’s important to seek medical advice as soon as possible. Many treatments can help with a trapped nerve, but is physiotherapy one of them? Let’s take a closer look at that question to give you all the info you need.
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What is a Trapped Nerve?
Also known as a pinched nerve, a trapped nerve is a compressed nerve. The surrounding tissue presses the nerve root, causing pain, numbness, and tenderness in the affected area of the body.
A trapped nerve is mostly caused by slipping the torn or leaked disks (herniated discs) between your vertebrae and the spinal nerve. The neck, upper middle, and lower back are places with a risk of a trapped nerve.
Trapped or pinched nerves can affect several parts of the body. The most common are:
Cervical Spine – A trapped nerve can occur in the cervical spine, which is a neck region of our spinal cord. A pinched nerve in this area can cause stiffness and pain in the neck. It also impacts the range of motion of your neck and also causing numbness in your arm and shoulder.
Lower Back – A lower back can have trapped nerves when there is compression on the nerve surrounding it. The nerve around can get compressed, causing pain, numbness, and tingling sensation in the back, hips, and legs.
Thoracic Area – A pinched nerve can occur in the thoracic area of the spine, and this condition is referred to as thoracic radiculopathy. The thoracic area covers the middle and upper part of the back. This is the least common area for a trapped nerve to appear.
What Causes a Trapped Nerve?
There are some conditions that cause tissue, muscles, and bones to compress the surrounding nerves.
Ageing results in the disc’s wear and tear, which acts as a cushion between your vertebrae (bones in the spinal cord). With time, this disc becomes thin and causes vertebrae to come in contact, which results in the growth of bones known as spurs. These new bones, or spurs, compress the surrounding nerve causing a pinched or trapped nerve.
Injuries and accidents can also cause trapped nerves. Repetitive motions of any part can cause stress and pressure on the nerve. Obesity can also constrict the nerve path, resulting in compressed nerves.
Symptoms of a Trapped Nerve
In most cases, pain is the only indication of a trapped nerve. However, there are other symptoms that are also a sign of trapped nerves.
Pain in the part of your body that has a trapped nerve.
- Burning sensations
- Poor reflexes in the affected area
- Reduced sensation or numbness
- Weak muscles around the trapped nerve area
- Sharp pain radiating outward
In a few cases, diagnosis can be made by imaging tests like EMG, X-ray, CT, or MRI.
Physiotherapy Treatments to Relieve Trapped Nerves
A trapped or pinched nerve can be treated by physiotherapy, which helps minimize pain and increases the mobility of the affected area. Following are some of the treatments which help in relieving the trapped nerve.
Massage Therapy – Massage therapy is one of the common ways of treating pain and trapped nerves. In this method, pressure is applied to the surrounding tissue and muscles. Techniques like compression, massages, kneading, and friction are combined to reduce nerve pain and thereby increase mobility in the tapped nerve area.
Spinal Mobilization – This technique involves stretching the restricted muscles compressing the nerve and limiting mobility. The stretching of the compressed muscle around the trapped nerve helps in relieving the pain and discomfort.
Therapeutic Exercises – Physiotherapy exercises involve stretching and strengthening exercises targeting the area affected by a trapped nerve. Depending upon where your trapped nerve is located, an exercise program will be developed by your physiotherapist to help relieve pain.
Dry Needling – It might sound scary, however, there is hardly any pain involved in this process. In this therapy, a dry thin needle is used on the skin of the triggered points. This trigger point is an area where the muscles are compressed which causes pain and disruption in movement. When a needle is placed on the triggered points, the constant pressure helps to release pain quicker than a hand massage does.
Stretching – Stretching is a great way to reduce mild pain due to trapped nerves. Stretching should be incorporated into the daily routine. It reduces tension and pressure in the area of a trapped nerve.
However, it is also important to note that over-stretching might make the symptom worse in the affected area. It is better to consult a physiotherapist and learn stretching techniques so that you do not damage the nerve any further.
Educating About Neuro Muscles – In most cases, our daily habits and lifestyle are the reason for trapped nerves and pain. Neuromuscular education can help bring stability to our bodies by improving body posture. Patients getting neuromuscular education are given activities to help achieve balance and control over the body mechanics.
How to Prevent a Trapped Nerve?
You cannot prevent every trapped nerve. However, the risk can be lowered by following the below tips:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- A good posture helps to prevent a pinched nerve
- Do stretching exercises and increase the mobility and flexibility of the body
- Do not stay in the same position for a long time, as it can put unnecessary stress on the body
- Avoid repetitive motion and take short breaks while working
Following these tips makes you much less likely to get a trapped nerve again.
There are many times when all you need for a trapped nerve is a period of rest. However, there are other times when it can be serious and more medical intervention is needed, such as splints, medication, or posture changes.
Along with these solutions, physiotherapy can often reduce your pain and the stress on your body. A physiotherapist will be able to use a combination of stretches, massage and exercise to ensure you’re back to full health as soon as possible.