Nerves send messages throughout your body. If you have a pinched nerve (nerve compression), your body may send you signals such as pain. Damage from a pinched nerve may be mild or severe. It may cause temporary or long-lasting problems. The earlier you get a diagnosis and treatment for nerve compression, the more quickly you’ll likely find relief. In some cases, a pinched nerve may not be completely recoverable, but treatment usually relieves pain and other symptoms.
Nerve compression syndrome is also known as:
- Nerve entrapment syndrome
- Compression neuropathy
- Entrapment neuropathy
- Trapped nerve
In this blog, we’re providing an overview of nerve compression syndrome. What is it? How do you know if you are suffering from it? How can it be treated?
Types of Nerve Compression Syndrome
Nerve compression syndrome occurs when a nerve is compacted or squeezed. Symptoms, such as pain, numbness, and muscle weakness, can occur at the site of the nerve. There are different types of nerve compression syndromes.
Some of the most common types of nerve compression syndromes include:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common type of nerve compression syndrome, occurring when the median nerve is compressed at the wrist. The median nerve extends from the upper arm to the thumb and, at the wrist, it passes through a structure called the carpal tunnel. Too much pressure on the wrist may cause swelling, which can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Cubital tunnel syndrome is another common type of nerve compression syndrome. Also known as ulnar neuropathy or ulnar nerve entrapment, it occurs when the ulnar nerve is compressed at the elbow. The ulnar nerve is responsible for the sensation that you get when you hit your funny bone. It passes close to the skin at the elbow. Much like carpal tunnel, when too much pressure causes swelling, this can lead to ulnar tunnel syndrome in the elbow.
Nerve compression syndrome is most likely to occur where our nerves pass through tunnel-like structures. Some rare types of nerve compression syndrome include:
- Suprascapular Nerve Compression Syndrome. This affects the suprascapular nerve in the shoulder.
- Guyon’s Canal Syndrome. This syndrome affects the ulnar nerve and can impact function in the hand.
- Meralgia Paresthetica. This affects the lateral cutaneous nerve in the outer thigh.
- Radial Nerve Compression Syndrome. This syndrome affects the radial nerve of the arm and can impact wrist, hand, and finger function.
Causes of Nerve Compression Syndrome
Nerve compression syndrome may often be caused by repetitive injuries, such as repeated movements related to your job duties. However, accidents such as sprains and broken bones can also cause nerve compression syndrome.
Certain medical conditions can also make you more susceptible to nerve compression syndromes.
- Autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Thyroid dysfunction
- High blood pressure
- Tumors and cysts
- Pregnancy or menopause
- Congenital (birth) defects
- Neural disorders
Repetitive injuries, accidents, and medical conditions may lead to:
- Reduced blood flow to the nerve
- Swelling in the nerve and surrounding structures
- Damage to the myelin sheath of the nerve
- Structural changes in the nerve
These changes have a negative impact on the nerve’s ability to send and receive messages causing symptoms such as pain, numbness, and reduced function.
Risk Factors of Nerve Compression Syndrome
The most common risk factors for nerve compression syndrome include:
- Being over the age of 30.
- Being a woman. Women are much more likely to develop carpal tunnel.
- Having a job that involves repeating certain movements can make you more likely to sustain a repetitive injury.
- Having a medical condition that impacts circulation or nerve function.
Symptoms of Nerve Compression Syndrome
The signs and symptoms of nerve compression syndrome include:
- Redness, swelling, and inflammation
- Aches and pain
- Tingling or numbness
- Muscle weakness
- Reduced flexibility
- Difficulty with certain movements
Diagnosis of Nerve Compression Syndrome
A doctor can assess your symptoms and utilize a physical examination and diagnostic tests to identify nerve compression syndrome.
Tests used to diagnose nerve compression syndrome may include:
- Nerve conduction tests
For carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel syndrome, diagnostic tests aren’t always necessary. Still, they may provide helpful information about the location and severity of the compression.
5 Treatments of Nerve Compression Syndrome
Treatment for nerve compression syndrome usually begins with lifestyle changes and noninvasive therapies. Treating the condition causing nerve compression syndrome may also ease symptoms. Nerve compression syndrome may require surgery in severe cases. Some of the treatment options for nerve compression syndrome include:
- Lifestyle changes. Avoid repetitive movements that cause pain, implementing ergonomic strategies at work and at home, or changing job duties may improve symptoms. If obesity is the cause of nerve compression syndrome, losing weight will likely improve symptoms.
- Therapy. Physical therapy can help relieve symptoms such as pain and numbness by improving your flexibility, strength, and range of motion in the affected area.
- Medication. Medications can help relieve symptoms of nerve compression syndrome and include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin or corticosteroids such as dexamethasone, which are injected directly around the nerve.
- Bracing and Splinting. In some cases of nerve compression syndrome, a doctor or physical therapist may recommend a splint or a brace to help you avoid putting pressure on the nerve.
- Surgery. Surgical procedures are a last resort in the treatment of nerve compression syndrome. The surgery itself depends on the type of nerve compression syndrome, the degree of compression, and the specific nerves and structures affected. Each procedure has risks and benefits and the outlook for surgery depends on many factors such as how long you’ve had symptoms, how severe your symptoms are, and any other health conditions you might have, however, the outlook is generally very good.
If surgery is required, our orthopedic surgeons have many years of experience performing nerve decompression surgery and have done thousands of procedures. Many types of nerve decompression procedures can be performed at our fully certified outpatient surgical facility.
Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today
At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you believe you are suffering from nerve compression syndrome, let us help you get back to doing the things you love. When nerve compression syndrome is identified and treated early, significant improvements can be made.
Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.