Trapped Nerves


Man With Back PainTrapped nerves are among the most painful conditions people can suffer from.

Trapped nerves are usually caused by either direct pressure on the nerve or from a reduction of the blood flow from the squeezing of the blood vessels that supply the nerve. They usually occur in the arms or legs – with sciatica the most common, but trapped nerves can also happen in the hands, feet and around the chest.

Tight muscles in the back and neck can often affect the blood flow to nerves and give pain radiating into the nerve. This is usually intermittent and associated with use.

The most common cause of trapped nerves is a slipped disc where a disc in your neck or spine has bulged and squeezes the nerve which becomes very sensitive and painful. Less commonly the disc can rupture and some of the chemicals can leak out which may cause an acute inflammation of the nerve.

Trapped nerve symptoms

These rather depend where the nerve entrapment is but usually happen in the neck or the low back but, more rarely, can happen in the chest, causing pain around the chest and breathlessness.

They are characterised by a severe ache, often described as like a bad toothache, radiating into the limb which becomes sharp with movement and may give altered sensations such as ‘pins and needles’ in the hands or feet. The pain may vary in intensity from a mild discomfort to almost unbearable pain that prevents you from sleeping and requires strong medication. The most common form of nerve entrapment occurs down the leg and is called sciatica.

Trapped nerve treatment

If you’re suffering from trapped nerve symptoms and especially if it is due to a slipped disc It is important to seek professional help quickly preferably from a health care practitioner who is experienced in dealing with disc conditions. These can be complex and require skilled assessment, diagnosis and treatment. Often there is an underlying process that has caused the injury, with damage to the disc occurring over an extended period of time, as a result of abnormal loading through the disc due to poor spinal mechanics, poor muscle support, poor posture, past injury, or bad working habits.

If you have had your symptoms for less than 3 months

If caught within the first 6 weeks – and your condition is not too severe – osteopathic treatment can be very effective. Osteopaths are skilled at finding the mechanical reasons responsible for your herniation and use effective, gentle treatments to correct these stresses. If the trapped nerve is due to muscle tension this can respond very quickly, within 2-3 treatments but will take a little longer to change the underlying cause and stop it coming back.

However if there is a disc problem this will take some time and often requires between 6-8 treatments to begin to get rid of the nerve pain – and longer to allow you to be able to begin to stress the disc again. But it is perfectly possible to allow the disc to heal without the need for surgery or epidural injection.

There is evidence to support the fact that osteopathic treatment can help with sciatic pain* and clinical experience shows that about 40-60% of all cases will respond very well to osteopathic treatment and rehabilitative exercise.

Medication prescribed by your GP can often help with the pain and is often useful used alongside Osteopathy, but can have quite nasty side effects and can be addictive. Also, medication only addresses your symptoms and will do nothing about the underlying injury process, meaning that there is a risk of this recurring again, if not managed with appropriate treatment and advice.

*Effectiveness of manual therapies: the UK evidence report. Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2010, 18:3 doi:10.1186/1746-1340-18-3 Article URL http://www.chiroandosteo.com/content/18/1/3

If you have had your symptoms for longer than 3 months

If your symptoms have persisted for longer than 3-6 months it is unlikely that osteopathy will be able to help, especially if you have already tried this or some other form of manual therapy. Surgery is not often advised and less than 5% of all disc problems are operated on.

Your GP will probably refer you for a steroid injection for which you may have to wait quite a long time. In addition, steroid injections do not address the disc condition but just bathe the region with a strong anti-inflammatory to help with the nerve pain. The pain often returns, but if it stays away for 3 months it is less likely to. However, the underlying problem still remains and without some form of rehabilitation there is a large risk of recurrence.

For cases such as these, we have had great success using IDD Therapy non-surgical spinal decompression.

IDD Therapy – Specialist Non-Surgical Treatment for Trapped Nerves

The Sussex Back Pain Clinic specialises in the non-surgical treatment of trapped nerves caused by disc problems by using IDD Therapy, the latest non-surgical spinal decompression technology from the USA.

IDD Therapy allows us to:

  • mechanically open the disc space to allow us to reduce the disc herniation or ‘slipped disc’
  • gently stretch the tight muscle
  • take the pressure off the trapped nerves
  • relieve your back or neck pain and create the best environment for the disc to heal naturally
  • treat problem areas to a much greater degree than a practitioner could do with their hands

We have had great results with patients who have suffered from months of pain and have either had too long a wait for an injection or previous injections have not worked for them.

We’ve also been able to help patients avoid the need for surgery and return to an active lifestyle.

For full details and case studies visit our IDD Therapy page

Book a consultation today with one of our Osteopaths and get started on the road to recovery.

Call us on 01273 725667.

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