nerve entrapment hatfield, norristown, and north wales

Nerve Entrapment

What is Nerve Entrapment?

Information to our muscles and organs are transmitted from our brain and spinal cord through nerves. Nerve entrapment is when a nerve or nerve root is trapped or compressed under a confined space. A muscle, bone or other type of soft tissue can be compressing or narrowing a space that a nerve is passing through which causes entrapment. Nerves can become compressed or entrapped at various regions of the extremities, especially at tunnel regions, where they may be predisposed or vulnerable to compression.

What Causes Nerve Entrapment?

Nerve entrapment can be caused by a variety of different reasons. Repetitive stress or activities, such as typing or using a computer mouse daily is a great example. Positioning your hand to use a computer or mouse all day can lead to compression of a nerve at the wrist, called Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. Inflammation and swelling of muscle or soft tissue can also cause nerve entrapment. When there is inflammation in a certain body part or region the structures around the inflammation/swelling can be compressing a nerve. A sudden trauma, like a car accident, can misalign body segments or structures that can also compress a nerve.

Symptoms of Nerve Entrapment

Sensations of tingling, burning, prickling or numbness are common symptoms of a nerve being entrapped. Severe shooting pain to a certain area, muscle or a group of muscles may be felt when a nerve is severely compressed or when it is compressed for a prolonged period of time. Since our muscles receive and send information via nerves, muscles may become or feel weaker due to entrapment of a nerve innervating that muscle. In severe cases of entrapment, a muscle may be paralyzed from an entrapped nerve.   

Common Areas of Nerve Entrapment

The following are some common places of nerve entrapment and common signs and symptoms.

  • Carpel Tunnel Syndrome – Entrapment of the median nerve at the wrist within carpal tunnel is the most common entrapment. This entrapment may cause pain or tingling to the hand, wrist or forearm. Weakness of the hand and wrist may also be presents in severe cases. 
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome – Affects a bundle of nerves passing between the Anterior and Middle Scalene muscles, First Rib, or Pectoralis Minor Muscle. Some common signs and symptoms include neck, shoulder, and arm pain, numbness or impaired circulation to the affected upper extremity.
  • Cubital Tunnel Syndrome – Entrapment of the ulnar nerve behind the elbow. This may cause pain or numbness to the arm at or below the elbow, and in severe cases weakness of the thumb and outside fingers
  • Radial Tunnel Syndrome – Entrapment of the radial nerve in the elbow muscles. Signs and symptoms of radial tunnel syndrome are very similar to that of Tennis elbow, which can include pain to the outside part of the elbow and pain when extending the hand, wrist or fingers back. 
  • Piriformis Syndrome – Entrapment of the sciatic nerve in the pisiformis muscle. Piriformis syndrome usually starts with pain, tingling, or numbness in the buttocks. When severe it can extend down the back of the leg. 
  • Cervical or Lumbar Radiculopathy –Nerve from the spine being compressed in the back due to degenerative changes in the spine. Symptoms of this type of nerve entrapment include sharp pain that can extend down the arm or leg, numbness/tingling, and weakness.  

Treatment and Prevention

Treatment of an entrapped nerve can vary depending on the severity. Nerve entrapment can be treated from rest or activity modification to avoid worsening symptoms. Stretching the area that the nerve is compressed under can help relieve symptoms. Stretching often to avoid tight muscles and for blood circulation is also beneficial. Individuals with nerve entrapment can benefit from Physical Therapy to diagnosis or treat the condition. Physical Therapists use special tests to rule in nerve entrapments and potential locations.  Utilizing manual therapy techniques, a PT can help relieve the entrapped nerve and ease symptoms. Physical Therapy is in most cases the first course of action in treating a nerve entrapment.  Ensuring proper posture and utilizing good ergonomic techniques while working or exercising will aide in reducing nerve entrapment risk. In severe cases, surgery may be needed to relieve the nerve entrapment. The Total Performance team in Hatfield, Norristown, and North Wales is ready to help you.

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