We’ve all felt it before. You know, that heavy, tingling-yet-numb sensation you get when your foot or arm falls asleep and you have to shake it around like a spaghetti noodle to knock some feeling back into it? At its best, that’s what a pinched nerve can feel like – some short term mild tingling or numbness. At its worst, a pinched nerve can fire shooting pain down a limb, all the way to your toes or fingertips. If you’re experiencing something like that more often than only after you’ve dozed off with your arm in a strange position, you may be dealing with a pinched nerve.
How It Happens
Believe it or not, almost 45 miles of nerves make up the average human’s central nervous system, with the majority of those nerves originating in the spinal column. The 24 bones (vertebrae) that comprise the spine, support the head, and protect those nerves are separated and cushioned by discs. Each separation allows a pair of nerves an exit point from the spine, one branching out handle the right side of the body and the other to the left. If one of those discs should fail in some way (rupture or herniate), it may result in some compression or obstruction of one of those exiting nerves. That “pinching,” or pressure, results in the numbness, tingling and/or pain experienced in seemingly random parts of the body. But the pain location is actually anything but random. Each set of nerves handles a certain area of the body, so where your pain is helps establish which nerve, and therefore which area of the spine, is likely creating the problem.
What Can I Do About It?
There are a number of treatment options for a pinched nerve, with physical therapy, pain meds, or muscle relaxers leading the way. Other possibilities include lifestyle changes such as weight loss and posture improvement. If after several weeks of non-invasive approaches you have not responded positively, you may be a candidate for surgery.
Obviously any type of spine related issue is nothing to self-diagnose, so if you’re experiencing shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in your arms, legs, or shoulders, please consult with your primary care doctor or visit one of our 14 AppleCare clinics located around southeast Georgia for an initial evaluation.