Pinched Nerve Symptoms

Pinched nerve symptoms often come on fast, with a burning sensation that is hard to ignore. Sometimes, however, pinched nerve symptoms can be delayed for several days. It all depends on the individual, the type of pinch and the severity. A good example of this is whiplash, which generally sets in anywhere from two hours to two days after an accident.

Recognizing Pinched Nerve Symptoms
The exact symptoms of a pinched nerve depend on which nerves are affected. Nerves are generally pinched where they connect to the spine or to the neck, even though the pain is felt elsewhere. This is known as referred pain. Because pain associated with a pinched nerve is often referred, it's not always easy to detect the site of the pinched nerve.

The pain, tingling and numbness of a pinched nerve can mimic vascular obstructions, so it's important to seek medical attention to rule more serious causes, such as a heart attack or stoke. Pinched nerve symptoms range from numbness and loss of sensation to a debilitating, burning pain that often radiates down a leg or up an arm. Coughing and sneezing or moving quickly can cause the pain to worsen. A pinched nerve often makes it exceedingly difficult to walk, sit, participate in sports or other physical activities or operate a motor vehicle. Pinched nerves are often more painful when you try to sleep.

Finding Pinched Nerves
It's important to remember that the area that tingles or hurts generally isn't the site of the pinched nerve. There may be some numbness or pain in the nerve itself, but pain is generally felt downstream from the injury. The pain and tingling are caused by the inability of the brain's signals to travel through the nerve to the muscles.

  • A pinched nerve in the lower back is generally felt as a pain that radiates down one leg. This is commonly known as sciatica. When suffering from sciatic nerve damage, the burning sensation can make it difficult to sit or drive and you may be unable to straighten your back. Muscle spasms may also be felt when a nerve is pinched in the spine. Both the radiating pain and the spasms can be very painful. You may also feel a dull pain at the base of the spine itself. In some cases, the pain associated with a ruptured disc will be in the calf or thigh muscle, both far from the point of pressure but still painful.
  • A pinched nerve in the neck due to a sudden movement, an accident an injury or simply sleeping in an awkward position can cause what is commonly called a stiff neck. A stiff neck can last from one to two days or for weeks. Whiplash is caused by a pinched nerve in the neck, triggered by a sudden back-and-forth jolt of the neck.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome is another example of how nerves can become pinched. With carpal tunnel, tissues swell and compress the median nerve, causing numbness and pain in the fingers, hand and forearm. In extreme cases, the numbness and pain may radiate all the way up to the shoulder. Because tingling and pain radiating up or down the arm can mimic the same type of pain and numbness felt with a stroke or heart attack, it's important to consult a physician immediately should this sensation occur.
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