Nerve compression occurs when too much pressure is put on a specific nerve over a period of time. If a nerve is compressed then it has a poor blood supply that can cause a number of problems, including swelling. Fibrosis of the nerve will usually follow if the pressure is not released. There are a number of examples of nerve compression syndromes including carpal tunnel, sciatica and meralgia paresthetica. Treatment for a pinched nerve depends on the severity of the problem along with the symptoms shown.
When a nerve becomes compressed the lack of blood supply is known as ischemia. The pressure is usually on the root of the nerve or the peripheral nerve and over time this can lead to fibrosis. This happens when a larger amount of connective tissue develops in a certain area of the body than is required and can lead to additional problems.
If a patient is suspected of having a compressed nerve then there are several different ways a medical profession can check for this. Usually this is confirmed by testing the function of the nerve to see how well it is conducting signals. Nerve compression will often be immediately obvious when a conduction test is performed.
Treating a pinched nerve usually begins with exercises and stretches along with other conservative methods to release pressure. If, however, there are significant problems developing from a pinched nerve then surgery may be required straight away. If the more conservative treatment methods fail to make a difference within a reasonable amount of time then this may also be cause for surgery.
One of the most common nerve compression syndromes is carpal tunnel. This occurs when a nerve in the wrist becomes compressed — often through overuse of a computer. Symptoms of the syndrome include numbness and tingling in the hand including a burning sensation which is often more pronounced at night. Treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome start with improving the way the person sits at a computer although in some severe cases surgery may be required.
There are a number of other nerve compression syndromes which are common. For example, cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when too much pressure is put on a nerve in the elbow and can cause pain in both the wrist and elbow. Radial tunnel syndrome occurs in a nerve in the proximal forearm and can cause pain on the lateral side of the elbow and forearm.