Also known as a compressed nerve, a pinched nerve typically develops if excessive pressure is placed on a nerve by the bones, cartilage, tendons, or muscles surrounding it. The pressure impairs nerve function, leading to pain and numbness in the affected area. Patients typically develop a pinched nerve as a result of an injury or from stress on a nerve due to repetitive motions used in hobbies or work activities. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis may be more likely to have pinched nerves, and some clinicians believe obesity also raises the risk of this issue. Diabetes, thyroid conditions, bone spurs, and bed rest can all increase a patient's risk of a pinched nerve as well. To diagnose a pinched nerve, doctors may recommend patients have nerve conduction studies, ultrasounds, MRI scans, and electromyography studies.
Muscle weakness develops in patients who have experienced a pinched nerve for a prolonged period. This symptom can significantly impact a patient's quality of life and their ability to be active. For example, patients who have a pinched nerve in the wrist may have pain while driving, lifting objects, or opening jars. Patients with a pinched nerve in the back may have pain while walking, and they may reduce their activity as a result of this pain. To help strengthen muscles, clinicians often recommend a course of physical therapy, and patients can wear a brace that may help alleviate some pressure on the nerve. Some patients may find it easier to perform potentially painful activities while wearing a supportive brace. However, patients should be careful to rest the affected area according to their doctor's instructions, as overuse can aggravate symptoms.