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How Long Do Pinched Nerves Last?

If you’ve ever pinched your skin, you know how badly that short tweak hurts. Imagine that pain sustained inside your body. That gives you an idea of how a pinched nerve feels. A pinched nerve occurs when a nerve becomes damaged and prevents the transmission of regular signals to the brain. That creates feelings of numbness and tingling.

Recognizing the Signs: Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve

Nerve compression from a pinched nerve sends a signal to the brain, causing the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Burning
  • Stinging
  • Muscle weakness
  • That pins and needles feeling you get when your foot falls asleep

Often the discomfort is worse when lying down or when you first wake up. Pain specialists typically see pinched nerves in the neck, back, elbows, and wrists, but it can occur anywhere in the body.

Causes of a Pinched Nerve

You may wake up one morning and feel the pain or numbness of a pinched nerve, or the discomfort can come on gradually. It can happen for any number of reasons. For instance, it may be caused by a herniated disc, bone spur, obesity, or arthritis, all of which may cause a nerve to be compressed. Nerve pain may also be caused by a sports injury or something as routine as the way you sit or stand. Many of us are familiar with nerve pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. The repetitive motions of typing on the computer, for example, can cause nerve compression.

How Long Do Pinched Nerves Last?

Pinched nerves can last from a few days to about a month, depending on how you treat it. It is typically a temporary condition that you can treat on your own, but it’s important to not ignore long-lasting or acute pain as it could be the sign of a bigger problem. Remember, the nerve is signaling the brain that there’s an issue. If, after rest and home treatment, you do not feel better, see a pain management specialist for diagnosis and treatment. There is a chance this could be a recurring issue if it’s happened once. However, pinched nerves and the recurrence of pinched nerves can be avoided by reducing pressure and inflammation by simple exercise movements.

Healing and Un-pinching: Effective Strategies for Pinched Nerve Relief

Most cases of pinched nerves go away on their own, with some rest. During the healing, avoid over-use of the affected area. If certain movements cause pain, avoid those irritants if possible. Remember, there is inflammation compressing the nerves. Easing the inflammation will mitigate the pain. One of the best treatment options is rest and sleep. Sleep is our body’s re-boot system and the opportunity for body systems to heal and repair. The thought is that the more rest, the quicker the healing. Problem is, when it comes to a pinched nerve, sleep time is often when the pain is the worst, and it’s difficult to get comfortable. Sleep is our time to decompress after a long day. It’s also the time that you can’t ignore the pinched nerve pain. Pain that you’ve probably “pushed through” all day. But there are some restorative options.

Home Remedies and Self-Care Treatments for Pinched Nerves

There a number of home remedies to alleviate pinched nerve pain. As discussed, sleep and rest are the best options. Finding a comfortable sleep position using pillows can help. Applying ice packs and heat is a good option. You may also consider taking a hot shower or bath or getting a professional massage. And over-the-counter pain relievers should lessen the severity of your discomfort.

Try movement. Just simple stretches or easy yoga in the affected area can provide relief because of an endorphin response. You can take an easy walk. And, especially if you are at work, set a timer to get up and move every hour to keep your body loose.

With some easy lifestyle changes like low-impact exercise, including walking, swimming, and biking, you can stay in shape and prevent nerve pain from occurring or returning.

If these remedies are not working, and the pain is not minimized or perhaps gets worse, it is best to seek the expertise of a pain management specialist.

Risks and Complications of Untreated Pinched Nerves

Leaving a pinched nerve untreated can have significant consequences, ranging from chronic pain to permanent nerve damage. Here's a breakdown of some potential complications:

Chronic Pain and Permanent Damage

  • Prolonged pain: The initial discomfort caused by the pinched nerve can persist and even worsen if left untreated. This chronic pain can significantly impact daily activities and quality of life.
  • Muscle weakness and atrophy: When a nerve is pinched, the muscles it controls can weaken and waste away (atrophy) due to lack of proper signals. This can lead to functional limitations and difficulty performing everyday tasks.
  • Numbness and tingling: The pinched nerve can cause persistent numbness or tingling in the affected area, making it difficult to feel or control the muscles and skin.

Nerve Root Damage and Cervical Radiculopathy

In severe cases, an untreated pinched nerve can damage the nerve root, the part of the nerve that exits the spinal cord. This can lead to a condition called cervical radiculopathy, which is characterized by:

  • Radiating pain: Pain that starts from the pinched nerve location and travels along the path of the affected nerve, often extending into the arm or leg.
  • Weakness and sensory loss: More significant weakness and numbness can occur in the area served by the damaged nerve root.
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control: In rare cases, severe nerve compression in the lower back can affect nerves controlling bladder and bowel function, leading to potential loss of control.

The Importance of Pinched Nerve Diagnosis and Treatment

Seeking timely medical attention for a suspected pinched nerve is crucial to prevent these complications. Early diagnosis and treatment can:

  • Relieve pain and discomfort
  • Prevent permanent nerve damage
  • Restore muscle function and sensation
  • Improve overall quality of life

Therefore, if you experience persistent pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness, particularly in areas where nerves are commonly pinched, it's important to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment to prevent long-term consequences.

Contact National Spine & Pain Centers to schedule an appointment with an affiliated pain specialist today.

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