What does a pinched nerve feel like? The truth is, a pinched nerve can feel like a nuisance, nothing more than a mild irritation or burning sensation, or it can be an excruciating, stabbing pain that comes and goes as you move, followed by a tingling sensation similar to what you feel when your leg or arm falls asleep. Knowing the symptoms associated with a pinched nerve is crucial when it comes to getting the correct diagnosis and the proper care.
How Nerves Get Pinched
Because nerves are sheathed in tread-like tubes that connect from your brain and spine to other parts of your body, it's easy to end up with a pinched nerve. To get an idea of how nerves work, think of running a piece of thread from one room to the next, in and out of every doorway and around furniture. What happens when you shut the door to one room? The thread also moves. If the door swells with humidity or is closed suddenly, it may catch the thread between the door and the door frame. This is pretty much the way a pinched nerve occurs.
When you pinch a nerve, you usually know immediately that something is wrong. The feeling that accompanies a pinched nerve can be anything from severe pain to mild pain. It may be associated with tingling or numbness that comes and goes, or that remains constant. For example, if you feel a pain in your calf muscle, partnered with a tingling sensation, you may have pinched a nerve in your spine. If you feel a sharp pain in your neck or are unable to twist your head from side to side, you may have pinched a nerve in your neck. At times the burning sensation of a pinched nerve can be debilitating.
Pinpointing a Pinched Nerve
Because a pinched nerve can occur while going through everyday motions, such as sleeping or turning quickly, it can happen to anyone at any time. To pinpoint the exact spot of the pinched nerve, it's important to move through your range of motion, as much as possible, and note when and where the pain or tingling is felt.
Often the way to relieve a pinched nerve is to massage or stimulate the area by rubbing it or working it slowly and gently with your fingers, or with a massage roller. Though this simple exercise often helps, it can be very painful to touch the affected area. Before you massage the muscle, heat it with a warm washcloth, then massage lightly, working the area with your fingertips.
If massage doesn't clear up the problem, physical therapy is often used to restore motion and decompress the nerve. This may be combined with drugs that reduce pain or with injections at the site of the pinched nerve to reduce inflammation and pain. In some cases, surgery may be recommended. It's a good idea to get a second opinion if your doctor suggests surgery, especially on the back or the neck, because the risk of future complications is high.
Pinched nerve symptoms often appear well away from the site of the nerve itself. Learn about some common types of pinched nerves and where the symptoms will appear.
Try these tips for relieving a pinched nerve and learn what causes nerves to get pinched.