I have learned to trust my patients. Very often when I first meet with a new patient I find that if I listen long enough, the patient will tell me exactly what is happening to them. Basically, they will diagnose themselves. This is not to say that I don’t perform my initial exam, perform orthopedic tests and take any necessary X-rays. But I find that people have an innate sense of what is happening within their own bodies.
So if someone comes to me complaining of a “pinched nerve”, I will explore that avenue. A pinched nerve in the neck will tend to radiate down one or both arms. A pinched nerve in the low back will tend to radiate down one or both legs. The sensation can be one of outright pain, numbness, a tingling sensation or a combination of all three. Usually these radiating symptoms will come and go depending on activities or a patient’s posture due to the fact that the pinched nerve will be affected by these variables. Naturally, the worse the condition, the more often the pinching sensation will be felt. Also, the further the symptoms radiate down an arm or leg the worse the pinching tends to be.
I do find that patients involved in auto accidents often complain about radiating symptoms. And yet, very often it can come from smaller traumas or even a lifetime of wear and tear, basically micro trauma.
My job is to diagnose where the nerves are being pinched. Most often it occurs as the nerve root branches from the spinal cord and exits the spine. Misaligned bones or a disc injury can put pressure on the exiting nerve root. As a chiropractor, this is my specialty, I adjust the spine to correct the misalignment and take pressure off the nerve.
However, the nerve can be pinched in other areas. For example, as the nerves leave the neck and travel down the arm they can be pinched by the muscles on the side of the neck. Muscle spasms or scar tissue/adhesions that develop within the muscles can restrict the nerves. Here, my job is to perform soft tissue work on the muscles in order to break up those adhesions and free up in the nerve entrapment.
Pinched nerves can also take place in the extremities. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a classic example of a nerve being pinched in a joint other than the spine, in this case, the wrist. Here too, by correcting the misaligned bones of the wrist and, as needed, performing soft tissue work, I can release the pinched nerve so that the patient can get back to their normal activities.