Pinched nerve—things you need to know

Pain, Inflammation, Joint disorders | March 8, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

Inflammation, Pain

Pinched nerve—things you need to know

A ‘pinched nerve” is the name given to describe the uncomfortable or painful sensation caused by increased pressure to a peripheral nerve. A peripheral nerve is one that is located outside the brain and spinal cord and compression can occur at several sites such in the lower spine or in the wrist. This increased pressure disrupts the nerves function—leading to pain, tingling, numbness or weakness. With rest and utilising natural therapies for nerve health and pain relief –recovery can be made a lot sooner.

Symptoms of a pinched nerve

  • 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 (paraesthesia)
  • Muscle weakness in the affected area
  • Frequent feeling that a foot or hand has "fallen asleep”

What causes a pinched nerve?

What causes a pinched nerve?A pinched nerve occurs when there is pressure (compression) on a nerve by surrounding tissues such as ligament, tendon, muscle or bone. Nerves are most vulnerable at places in your body where they travel through narrow spaces but have little soft tissue to protect them. The pressure may be the result of repetitive motions or it may happen from holding your body in one position for extended periods, such as sitting crossed legged.

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

  • Injury
  • Rheumatoid arthritis 
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  • 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 and once the pressure is relieved recovery is quick. However, if the pressure continues, chronic pain and permanent nerve damage can occur.

Different regions where pinched nerves occur

There are several types of disorders affecting root nerves, which are commonly grouped together under the umbrella term “pinched nerve”.

Cervical radiculopathy

Different regions where pinched nerves occurThis type of pinched nerve is located near the neck. It causes nerve pain and numbness to travel outward down the arms, upper back, chest or shoulders. “Cervical” refers to the seven vertebrae at the top of the backbone. Cervical radiculopathy is linked to conditions including herniated disc, a bulging disc, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis and stenosis.
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Lumbar radiculopathy

This type of pinched nerve is located in the lower (lumbar) region of the spine. “Lumbar” refers to the five large, flexible vertebrae toward the bottom of the spine.

This is the most common place for a pinched nerve to develop since the lower back bears a lot of weight and stress, especially during movement or lifting.

Thoracic radiculopathy

This is the least common type of pinched nerve, which affects the root nerves of the middle section of the spine (the thoracic region). Due to the middle back’s lack of flexibility and mobility the thoracic vertebrae are usually far less stressed than the other spinal regions.


Sciatic nerve pain radiates downward from the lower back through one or both thighs and legs. Pressure on the sciatic nerve from a herniated disc is usually the cause of sciatica and is a relatively common condition, especially during pregnancy.

Natural treatment for pinched nerves

Physical therapy

A physical therapist can teach you exercises that strengthen and stretch the muscles in the affected area to relieve pressure on the nerve. They may recommend modifications to activities that aggravate the nerve. In addition to this, maintaining proper posture, exercises to help strengthen your core and spinal alignment may be recommended.

Soft tissue therapy

Natural treatment for pinched nervesRelieving tight muscles and trigger points can make a significant difference in reducing joint stress and a resulting pinched nerve. A trained practitioner can help “turn on” muscles that have been “turned off” due to injury and eliminate muscular pain. Examples of soft tissue therapies for a pinched nerve include dry needling, active release technique and neurokinetic therapy.

Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight or obese increases your risk of suffering nerve problems such as nerve compression. This is because excess weight puts extra strain on your joints and nerves. Follow a healthy diet and loose weight gradually to aim for a body max index in the green zone. Exercising might be restricted but a good physical therapist can suggest exercises which are suitable for you.

Supplements to help

There are a range of natural therapies which can help provide pain relief, while reducing damage to the nerve and surrounding tissues. Examples include:

Curcumin—numerous animal studies have discovered that curcumin from turmeric has a beneficial effect on neuropathic pain from a peripheral nerve injury.

Jamaican dogwood—traditionally used for nerve pain, this herb also has clinical evidence to back up it’s use in this area.

Magnesium—an important mineral for nervous system health and reducing inflammation.

Lipoic acid—is an antioxidant important for nerve health by preventing nerve damage.

Vitamin B12—this nutrient is essential in maintaining the protective coating of our nerves to prevent pain and degeneration.

Fish oil—omega-3 essential fatty acids reduce pain from a pinched nerve and provide many other benefits to our health.

Topical relief

To provide topical relief you can apply herbs with anodyne (pain relieving) qualities—specifically to help with nerve pain. These include capsaicin from capsicum spp. which reduces the amount of substance P in the body (a neurotransmitter involved in pain perception). Other herbs which are beneficial include St John’s wort, lemon balm and lavender.

​Ways to prevent a pinched nerve in the first placeWays to prevent a pinched nerve in the first place

  • Avoid repetitive activities
  • Build core strength and flexibility
  • Treat underlying conditions
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Keep active and avoid holding the same position for extended periods of time
  • Eat a healthy, varied diet based on fresh foods  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Xiaoyan Zhu, et al. Curcumin Alleviates Neuropathic Pain by Inhibiting p300/CBP Histone Acetyltransferase Activity-Regulated Expression of BDNF and Cox-2 in a Rat Model. PLoS One. 2014; 9(3): e91303

Horasanli B, et al. Comparative evaluation of the electrophysiological, functional and ultrastructural effects of alpha lipoic acid and cyanocobalamin administration in a rat model of sciatic nerve injury. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2017 Sep 22;30(5):967-974

Wang L, et al. The Antinociceptive Properties of the Corydalis yanhusuo Extract. PLoS One. 2016 Sep 13;11(9):e0162875

Eun Yeong Lim, Yun Tai Kim. Food-Derived Natural Compounds for Pain Relief in Neuropathic Pain. Biomed Res Int. 2016; 2016: 7917528

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