Pinched nerve: We’ve all heard the term, and most of us have probably thought we had one at some point. But what is a pinched nerve, really?
Dr. Joseph Carfi, a doctor of physical medicine in New Hyde Park, NY, sees a lot of patients who come in with this complaint. A pinched nerve, he says, is just what it sounds like. “Quite literally, the nerve is being pressed” within the spine. This could be the result of a condition like arthritis or a herniated disc, or simply from poor posture.
Nerves travel through the spine, making their way through tiny passages in the discs and vertebrae. When swelling occurs, these passages narrow and press against the nerve, often causing pain or numbness. “It hurts because the nerve is being irritated from this pinch and it becomes inflamed,” says Dr. Carfi. “Inflammation is painful.”
“The first order of business is to reduce the swelling and the inflammation by medications, physical therapy, activity modifications, position modifications, things of that nature,” he explains. “The other way to [unpinch a nerve] is to improve posture and positioning so that the little holes where the nerve has to pass…are slightly larger.”
Sometimes, the pinched nerve can even correct itself with time due to natural changes and restrictions in the discs. It usually doesn’t take a drastic approach to fix the problem, since the spaces being dealt with are so miniscule that the smallest bit of movement makes a difference. “Even a little bit helps.”
Written by Danielle Poupore