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Compressed Nerves

A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues, such as bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons. This pressure disrupts the nerve's function, causing pain, tingling, numbness or weakness.

Compressed Nerves Symptoms, Causes & Risk Factors

Symptoms

Pinched nerve signs and symptoms include:

  • Numbness or decreased sensation in the area supplied by the nerve

  • Sharp, aching or burning pain, which may radiate outward

  • Tingling, pins and needles sensations (paresthesia)

  • Muscle weakness in the affected area

  • Frequent feeling that a foot or hand has "fallen asleep"

The problems related to a pinched nerve may be worse when you're sleeping.

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Causes

A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure (compression) is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues.

In some cases, this tissue might be bone or cartilage, such as in the case of a herniated spinal disk that compresses a nerve root. In other cases, muscle or tendons may cause the condition.

In the case of carpal tunnel syndrome, a variety of tissues may be responsible for compression of the carpal tunnel's median nerve, including swollen tendon sheaths within the tunnel, enlarged bone that narrows the tunnel, or a thickened and degenerated ligament.

 

A number of conditions may cause tissue to compress a nerve or nerves, including:

  • Injury

  • Rheumatoid or wrist arthritis

  • Stress from repetitive work

  • Hobbies or sports activities

  • Obesity

 

If a nerve is pinched for only a short time, there's usually no permanent damage. Once the pressure is relieved, nerve function returns to normal. However, if the pressure continues, chronic pain and permanent nerve damage can occur.

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Risk factors

The following factors may increase your risk of experiencing a pinched nerve:

  • Sex. Women are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, possibly due to having smaller carpal tunnels.

  • Bone spurs. Trauma or a condition that causes bone thickening, such as osteoarthritis, can cause bone spurs. Bone spurs can stiffen the spine as well as narrow the space where your nerves travel, pinching nerves.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis. Inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis can compress nerves, especially in your joints.

  • Thyroid disease. People with thyroid disease are at higher risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

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