Nerve Compression

2021-08-29 06:52 AM

Nerve compression can occur anywhere in the body. For example, a herniated disc in the spine, which can put pressure on a nerve root, causes pain that radiates down the back of the leg (sciatica).


Nerve compression occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve from surrounding tissues - such as bone, cartilage, muscle, or ligaments. This pressure disrupts nerve function, causing pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness.

Nerve compression can occur anywhere in the body. For example, a herniated disc in the spine, which can put pressure on a nerve root, causes pain that radiates down the back of the leg (sciatica). Likewise, nerve compression at the wrist can lead to pain and numbness in the hands and fingers (carpal tunnel syndrome).

With rest and conservative treatments, most people recover from the effects of nerve compression in a few days or weeks. Sometimes, surgery is needed to relieve pain when a nerve is compressed.


Signs and symptoms of nerve compression include:

Numbness or decreased sensation in the area of ​​the nerve.

Pain or burning pain may radiate outward. When pinched nerves come from the spinal cord, coughing or sneezing can worsen the pain.

Tingling, "pins and needles" sensation (paresthesia).

Muscle weakness or twitching of the affected area.

Frequently feeling a leg or arm drop.

Problems related to a pinched nerve may be worse while you are sleeping.

See your doctor if signs and symptoms of nerve compression persist for several days and do not respond to self-care measures, such as rest and prescription pain relievers.


Nerve compression occurs when too much pressure (compression) is applied to a nerve from surrounding tissues. In some cases, this can be bone or cartilage tissue - such as in the case of a herniated spinal disc compressing a nerve root. In other cases, muscles or ligaments may be the culprit. In the case of carpal tunnel syndrome, a variety of tissues may be responsible for nerve compression of the carpal tunnel, including swollen tendon sheaths, enlarged bones narrowing the tunnel, or thickened ligaments. up and metamorphose.

A number of problems can cause tissue to compress a nerve. Injury, poor posture, osteoarthritis, stress from repetitive hobbies, work or sports activities, and obesity are common causes of nerve compression.

Pressure causes neuritis and loss of nerve function. If the nerve is pinched for only a short time, there is usually no permanent damage. When the pressure is mild, normal nerve function will be returned. However, if the pressure continues, chronic pain and permanent nerve damage can occur.

Risk factors

The following factors may increase the risk of nerve compression:

Posture. Poor posture adds extra pressure to the spine and nerves.

Osteoarthritis. Nerve compression can result from bone spurs caused by osteoarthritis.

Excessive exercise. Jobs or hobbies that require repetitive hand, wrist, or shoulder movements, such as assembly line work, increase the likelihood of a pinched nerve.

Obesity. Being overweight can add stress to your nerves.

Genetic. Some genetics are predisposed to problems that lead to pinched nerves.

Testing and diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and conduct a physical exam.

If your doctor suspects nerve compression, you may undergo several tests. These tests are usually completed at the same time and take about an hour:

Nerve conduction. Electrodes are placed on the skin to stimulate the nerves with mild electrical impulses. You will feel a sensation that resembles an electric shock, which may be uncomfortable. Test results indicate nerve damage. This test may also be called a nerve conduction velocity test.

Electromechanical. This test measures the electricity produced in the muscle. During the test, electrodes are placed into the muscle to record electrical activity. You may feel pain when the needle is inserted, and the muscle may be sore for a few days after the test. The test results tell your doctor if there is damage to the nerves that lead to the muscles.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI, a technique that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create images of the body, may be used if your doctor suspects nerve root compression in the spine.

Treatments and drugs

The most frequently recommended treatment for nerve compression is to stop any activity that causes or aggravates the compression.

Depending on the location of the pinched nerves, a splint or splint to immobilize the area may be needed. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, your doctor may recommend wearing a splint at night as well as during the day because the wrist flexes and opens frequently during sleep.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy can teach exercises to strengthen and stretch the muscles in the affected area in order to relieve pressure on the nerve. An activity modification that aggravates nerve compression may also be recommended.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) and naproxen (Aleve, others) can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation around nerves. Your doctor may recommend an NSAID if the pain is severe.

Corticosteroids injected into the affected area can help minimize pain and inflammation.


If the pinched nerve does not improve after several weeks to months with conservative treatments, surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve may be necessary. The types of surgery vary depending on the location of the pinched nerve. For example, surgery may result in the removal of a bone spur or part of a herniated disc in the spine or severing a carpal ligament to allow more room for nerves to pass through the wrist.


The following measures can help prevent nerve compression:

Maintain good posture.

Add synergy and flexibility exercises to your regular exercise program.

Limit repetitive activities, and take frequent breaks when engaging in these activities.

Maintain a healthy weight.

Related articles:

- Disorders of the Hand: Hand Reconstruction and Nerve Compression (PDF)

- Nerve Compression Syndromes (PDF)

- Papillary oedema - signs of symptoms and causes