Identifying And Treating Pain From Nerve Tension
Nerve tension is pain that occurs because a nerve is being compressed or stuck in its surrounding tissue which prevents it from moving within its tract like it normally does. This can happen for a variety of reasons. If a joint has been immobile for a period of time it increases the risk that a nerve can get a little stuck
Nerve tension is pain that occurs because a nerve is being compressed or stuck in its surrounding tissue which prevents it from moving within its tract like it normally does. This can happen for a variety of reasons. If a joint has been immobile for a period of time it increases the risk that a nerve can get a little stuck. The nerves that are trapped or pinched include nerves at the neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, lower leg, or foot. Common types of nerve entrapment include are carpal tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome (neck), or piriformis syndrome (hip), suprascapular nerve (scapula or shoulder blade), tarsal tunnel syndrome (feet), etc.
What happens when the nerve is entrapped?
When the nerves are not sliding or gliding well, it can cause pain, altered movements, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, burning sensation, and even dry skin.
The lack of adequate movement of the nerve creates signals that are sent to the brain, and the brain then creates a protective response within the body. This protective response can take the form of the symptoms described above, or more subtle responses like muscle guarding that can be measured with clinical assessment.
Am I at risk of getting this nerve entrapment syndrome?
Some factors put you more at risk for developing a nerve compression or entrapment. These factors include:
Prior fracture or dislocations to the local area;
Scar tissue and/or myofascial tension;
Bone spurs/ arthritis;
Swelling or edema;
Repetitive or prolonged activities that require repetitive movements;
Systemic conditions, such as diabetes.
How to treat the pain and other symptoms caused by nerve entrapment?
The treatment requires the clinician to consider multiple variables specific to you. The degree of the entrapment (or nerve tension), the location of the entrapment, and the present level of healing (acute, sub-acute, or chronic) all must be considered.
Since the condition is generally non-life-threatening, continuing to move is crucial. The Physiotherapist or health care provider can guide you with the appropriate exercises and which movements to avoid, to prevent further aggravation. The clinician can also consider non-surgical treatments as well as surgical interventions if conservative approaches are not effective.
Postural and biomechanical corrections are vital to addressing the underlying mechanisms that are causing the neural irritation.
Bracing or splinting can also be considered to help encourage rest for the nerve. This is an excellent opportunity for an Occupational Therapy consult.
You can also consider nerve gliding exercises if the nerve is in the appropriate phase of healing. Nerve gliding exercises are not generally encouraged during the acute healing phase.
Surgery should be considered as the last option for a nerve entrapment syndrome, as it can entail a lengthy recovery for the patient. Again, because of the variability that exists with this type of pathology, it is best to consult a Physician or a Neurosurgeon for the best options for the patient. This could include a more simple procedure, such as a local arthroscopic debridement, or may involve a more involved surgery such as a neural decompression or an open spinal or local surgery.
“Time is not a cure for chronic pain, but it can be crucial for improvement. It takes time to change, to recover, and to make progress.”
—Dr. Mel Pohl —A Day Without Pain