Do pinched nerves go away on their own?
While in most cases the problem resolves itself over time without medical intervention, it’s important to understand what’s going on under the surface.
Today I want to put your fears at bay, and tell you exactly how you can get back to living your best life.
Do pinched nerves go away on their own?
Yes, in the majority of cases pinched nerves go away on their own with rest, ice/heat therapy, and other home remedies like gentle stretches. However, if you experience persistent pain or numbness that lasts beyond a few days or weeks it is recommended to see a doctor for further evaluation.
What is a Pinched Nerve?
A pinched nerve is an uncomfortable condition caused by direct pressure, from an injury, awkward movement, or built-up stress on a nearby nerve. It can be caused by repetitive motions like typing on the computer for long periods or even sleeping in an awkward position.
The resulting symptoms can include:
- sharp pain
- muscle spasm
- loss of movement
The most common areas affected are the lower neck and lower back due to their vulnerability to strain and stress. Carpal tunnel syndrome, foot-drop, and cubital tunnel syndrome are other examples of a compressed nerve.
What causes a pinched nerve?
Considering the anatomy of your spine and nervous system, we now understand how issues like poor posture and repetitive actions affect us, leading to nerve compression injuries.
A common culprit is an injured spinal disc, causing neck pain or lower back pain. Furthermore, pain can radiate down the arms or legs. This is called radiculopathy.
But these types of issues usually take years of stress first. What if you’ve simply woken up with a pinched nerve feeling in your neck, back, or shoulder?
In many instances, this has happened from an awkward twisting movement that pinched a joint in your spinal column. The swelling irritates nearby nerves, causing pain.
If this happens in the neck and you can’t turn your head, it’s called “torticollis”. It will resolve on its own, but a trip to the chiro or physio is a good idea too.
Other conditions that make us more prone to a pesky pinched nerve include:
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing) irritating the spinal cord
- Pregnancy-related changes in posture and fluid balance
Diagnosing a Pinched Nerve
Diagnosing a pinched nerve can be difficult as the symptoms may vary depending on the location and severity of the pressure.
Imaging tests such as X-rays or a CT scan are typically used to identify bony alignment issues, or direct sources of pressure on a nerve.
These visuals allow your chiropractor, physio, orthopedic surgeon, or sports medicine doctor to view structures inside your body – the bones, organs, and soft tissues that could be involved.
These images also serve to determine if there is any compression or inflammation of a nerve root, or a major bundle like the sciatic nerve, for example.
During a physical exam, your doctor will assess muscle strength to determine if you do in fact have a pinched nerve. This is because all muscles require a full nerve supply to contract properly.
Reflex tests and range of motion (ROM) tests are also vital in diagnosing a pinched nerve.
Other techniques may be used to test for sensation loss and other specific weaknesses caused by damage to peripheral nerves from compression or inflammation, perhaps from an underlying illness.
Examples of neurological tests include electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (NCS). Nerve conduction studies measure electrical activity in an area of your body that could be affected by a pinched nerve, and they are performed at a neurologist’s office.
Treating a Pinched Nerve
Non-surgical treatments for a pinched nerve include
- Chiropractic care
- Physical therapy
- Ergonomic fixes (your workplace set-up)
I can’t stress enough how rest is an important part of any treatment plan as it allows the body to heal itself quickly.
Physical therapy can help strengthen muscles that support the spine and improve flexibility in order to reduce pressure on the affected nerve, and fix the weakness that caused it.
Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or muscle relaxants may be prescribed by your doctor to reduce pain and inflammation associated with a pinched nerve.
Lifestyle changes might include simply avoiding activities that stretched your cervical spine (neck) or lumbar spine to the point where it swelled up and pinched a nerve.
In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to treat a pinched nerve if non-surgical treatments are not effective. Decompression surgery involves removing bone spurs or herniated disc material and other tissue from around a compressed nerve.
Fusion surgery is another option that involves fusing two vertebrae together to stabilize them and prevent further compression of nearby nerves.
Both types of surgeries have risks involved so they should only be considered after all other options have been exhausted.
Stretching exercises and cold/hot compresses may also help relieve symptoms associated with pinched nerves without having to resort to more invasive treatments like surgery or medications.
Stretching exercises should focus on gently moving tight muscles around the pinched nerve, while the cold/hot contrast therapy can help reduce swelling and inflammation, providing temporary relief as your nerve pinch heals.
How long does a neck pinched nerve last?
With no treatment, a neck pinched nerve will last for 2-3 days, with gradual return of movement over 1-2 weeks. However, in serious cases involving cervical nerve root compression, the issue may not heal properly without treatment.
How long does a low back pinched nerve last?
With no treatment, a lumbar pinched nerve will last for 3-7 days, with gradual return of movement over 2 weeks. However, in serious cases involving lumbar nerve root compression, the issue may not heal properly without treatment.
How do I know if my pinched nerve is serious?
If you experience severe or persistent pain, numbness, weakness or tingling in the affected area, it may be a sign of a serious pinched nerve. Consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Why isn’t my pinched nerve getting better?
The reasons for a pinched nerve not improving include doing incorrect self-treatment, underlying health conditions, or the presence of bone spurs, herniated discs, or persistent inflammation.
There may be need for more aggressive treatments. It is best to consult a chiropractor or doctor for a proper evaluation.
In conclusion, a pinched nerve can be painful and debilitating but will heal on its own in the majority of cases.
Make sure you get a proper diagnosis because your issue might actually be a sprained spinal facet joint or disc strain, resulting from spinal misalignment!
The best treatment approach is to gently mobilize the area, whilst getting relief from the symptoms of a pinched nerve from your chiro or physical therapist.
In some cases, a pinched nerve may go away on its own with rest and time; however, if symptoms persist or worsen over time then medical attention should be sought out – don’t let your nerve pain linger for more than a few days.
Questions about nerve pinching? Share below in the comments so we can shed some light on it for you.
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