Chicago Health | Homepage
Ask the Harvard Experts: Trapped nerves can happen in many sites

Ask the Harvard Experts: Trapped nerves can happen in many sites

By Howard LeWine, M.D.

Q: What is a trapped nerve? How does it happen?

A: The term “trapped nerve” refers to a condition in which a nerve is compressed or pinched. This causes pain, numbness, weakness or other symptoms. There are many sites and causes of nerve compression. Here are some of the common ones:

A disc problem in the back or neck. Spinal discs can bulge or tear, pressing on nerves as they travel to and from the spinal cord; sciatica is a common example of a “trapped nerve” that may be due to disc disease.

Swelling in the wrist from fluid retention or arthritis. The median nerve travels through the carpal tunnel, a tight space in the wrist that is easily compressed by swelling in the joint.

Enlarged tissues. Growth of a lymph node, an abscess (an infection) or a tumor can compress a nearby nerve.

Injury. A nerve can be compressed by swelling, fracture or bleeding following trauma. Or the injury might be minor, such as simply leaning on your elbow. This can compress the ulnar nerve that travels just under the skin.

After reviewing your symptoms and performing a physical exam, your doctor can often tell which nerve is compressed. Some tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for disc disease, may be necessary to confirm the location of the nerve entrapment and the specific cause.

Treatment of an entrapped nerve depends on the cause. It may be as simple as wearing a wrist splint for carpal tunnel syndrome or not leaning on your elbows. Medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs for arthritis, may improve symptoms of nerve compression. However, surgery may be recommended for if these other measures are not effective.

(Howard LeWine, M.D., is an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. For additional consumer health information, please visit www.health.harvard.edu.)

(c) 2015 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Similar Articles

An Aspirin a Day May Keep Heart Attacks and Strokes Away

An Aspirin a Day May Keep Heart Attacks and Strokes Away

By Julie A. Jacob Aspirin is like the Swiss army knife of medications—it can relieve pain, fever

Hold Your (Charley) Horses

Hold Your (Charley) Horses

By Kevin Sterne Has a nocturnal leg cramp jolted you awake recently? That intense knotting in

Seeking Drug to Treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Seeking Drug to Treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

By Chuck Green Chicago-area families are advocating for new medications for what would be the first

Myth or Fact?

Myth or Fact?

We asked leading Chicago doctors to weigh in on some common health conceptions By Laura Drucker MYTH OR

Pure Oxygen Helps Wound Healing

Pure Oxygen Helps Wound Healing

By Chuck Green Normal wounds often heal quickly on their own. However, the healing process can

Articles By Category

Family Health

In The Know

CH Lifestyle

January 2017
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
December 25, 2016 December 26, 2016 December 27, 2016 December 28, 2016 December 29, 2016 December 30, 2016 December 31, 2016
January 1, 2017 January 2, 2017 January 3, 2017 January 4, 2017 January 5, 2017 January 6, 2017 January 7, 2017
January 8, 2017 January 9, 2017 January 10, 2017 January 11, 2017 January 12, 2017 January 13, 2017 January 14, 2017
January 15, 2017 January 16, 2017 January 17, 2017 January 18, 2017 January 19, 2017 January 20, 2017 January 21, 2017
January 22, 2017 January 23, 2017 January 24, 2017 January 25, 2017 January 26, 2017 January 27, 2017 January 28, 2017
January 29, 2017 January 30, 2017 January 31, 2017 February 1, 2017 February 2, 2017 February 3, 2017 February 4, 2017

Categories

Recent Comments

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE
Cost to give birth 1943 - Page 3 - Defending The Truth Political Forum

Cost to give birth 1943 - Page 3 - Defending The Truth Political Forum

A Hazy Shade of Healthcare: What does tort reform

VIEW ARTICLE

Archives