Pinched Nerve: Do You Have One? -GUEST POST-

Pinched Nerve: Do You Have One? -GUEST POST-

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Jake Altman.  I treat patients out of Catalyst a couple of days week and I am excited to share some of my experience and knowledge with you!

One of the most common ailments I treat patients for are “pinched nerves”. But what exactly is a pinched nerve, and why do they happen? Let’s find out!

Generally, a pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues, such as bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons, thereby effecting it’s function. A pinched nerve can occur at a number of different locations throughout the body. Just as the real estate saying goes, “location, location, location!”, so goes the importance of the location of the pinched nerve. While a pinched nerve in the neck, forearm, lower back, or calf may all have similar features - classically, pain, tingling, numbness, and/or weakness - they will likely all have distinct patterns of symptomatology. This is based on each nerve having a specific distribution, or region of the body, that it governs.


In order to appropriately manage these conditions, it’s important for clinicians to take a thorough history with each patient. During clinical training, they teach us that “the patient will give you the diagnosis”. Now, I have to say that I’m very fortunate to have some smarty pants patients who are typically spot-on with their self-diagnoses. They may not be able to tell me the names of the nerves, but they will help me out with the heavy lifting with this common conversation: “Hey Doc. I don’t know what’s going on. I have shooting pain in my [fill-in your favorite region] that travels to my [adjacent region], especially when I do [fill-in your likely repetitive motion]. I’m not a doctor, but I think it’s a pinched nerve!” In this snippet of a typical visit, they’ve already given me the relative location, the associated symptoms, and the likely diagnosis. What more can a clinician ask for!?


Despite their best efforts, what the patient can’t tell me is exactly WHICH nerves are being pinched. For instance, nerves from the neck and shoulder often have some overlapping locations based on their anatomical orientation. More importantly, patients also can’t tell me WHY the nerve(s) may be pinched in the first place. That’s when I get to put on my metaphorical detective’s hat and figure out not only what nerves are involved, but the best way for us to treat the issue.


How do we treat this issue? Carefully :) In all seriousness, I use my clinical skills, experience, and evidence-based strategies to not only assess each patient but create an action plan consisting of offloading strategies - in the form of stability, mobility, and/or strengthening exercises - so that people can continue to go about their daily activities with less discomfort, disruption, and distress.


I hope this has been informative for you! If you have any follow up questions or are interested in exploring why you may be experiencing some of the above symptoms of “pinched nerves”, please don’t hesitate to reach out: [email protected]

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