Nerve compression is a condition that occurs when too much pressure is placed on the nerve under certain conditions. Symptoms include pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness. Symptoms only affect one part of the body, depending on which nerve is affected. Nerve conduction studies help confirm the diagnosis. You can find more information below.

What is nerve compression?

Nerve entrapment is a condition that occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues such as bones, cartilage, muscles, or tendons. This pressure disrupts the function of the nerve, causing pain, tingling, numbness or weakness. Any nerve compression can occur in some areas of your body. For example, a herniated disc in your lower spine can put pressure on the nerve root, causing radiating pain to the back of your leg.

Likewise, a pinched nerve in your wrist can cause pain and numbness in your hand and fingers (this is called carpal tunnel syndrome). That is, nerve compression; It can be on the hand, arm, wrist, waist and many more. With rest and other conservative treatments, most people recover from pinched nerve within a few days or weeks. However, in some cases, surgery may be required to relieve pain.

Causes of nerve compression

Nerve compression occurs when too much pressure (compression) is applied to a nerve by the surrounding tissues.

In some cases, this tissue may be bone or cartilage, such as in the case of a herniated spinal cord compressing a nerve root. In other cases, muscles or tendons can cause this condition.

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In the case of carpal tunnel syndrome, various tissues may be responsible for compression of the median nerve of the carpal tunnel, including swollen tendon sheaths within the tunnel, enlarged bone that narrows the tunnel, or a thickened and degenerated ligament.

Some of the following conditions can cause tissue to compress a nerve or nerves:

  • injury
  • Rheumatoid arthritis or wrist arthritis
  • Stress from repetitive work
  • Hobbies or sporting events
  • Obesity

If a nerve is only briefly pinched, there is usually no permanent damage. Once the pressure is relieved, nerve function returns to normal. However, if the pressure continues, chronic pain and permanent nerve damage can occur.

Who is at risk?

The following factors can increase your risk of getting a pinched nerve:

  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, possibly because they have smaller carpal tunnels.
  • Bone spurs: Trauma or a condition that causes bone thickening, such as osteoarthritis, can cause bone spurs. Bone spurs can stiffen the spinal cord and narrow the space where your nerves travel, pinching nerves.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis : The inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis can compress nerves, especially in your joints.
  • Thyroid disease: People with thyroid disease have a higher risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Other risk factors include:

  • Diabetes: People with diabetes have a higher risk of nerve compression.
  • Certain jobs: Jobs or hobbies that require repetitive hand, wrist, or shoulder movements, such as assembly line work, increase the likelihood of nerve compression.
  • Obesity: Excess weight can put pressure on nerves.
  • Pregnancy: Water and weight gain associated with pregnancy can swell your nerve pathways and pinch your nerves.
  • Prolonged bed rest: Lying for a long time can increase the risk of nerve compression.

Symptoms of nerve compression

Symptoms of nerve compression include:

  • Numbness or decreased sensation in the affected nerve area
  • Sharp pain or burning sensation that may radiate outward
  • Tingling, pins and needles (paresthesia)
  • muscle weakness in the affected area
  • Feeling that a foot or hand is “falling asleep”
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Also, problems from nerve compression may be worse while you sleep.

When should you see a doctor?

If symptoms of pinched nerve persist for several days and do not respond to self-care measures such as rest and over-the-counter pain relievers, it is worth consulting with your doctor.

How is nerve compression diagnosed?

Your doctor will first ask about your symptoms and perform a physical examination. If he suspects a nerve entrapment afterward, you may undergo some tests.

These tests may include:

  • Nerve conduction study: This test measures electrical nerve impulses and the work of your muscles and nerves through electrodes placed on your skin. The study measures the electrical impulses in your nerve signals when a small current passes through the nerve. The test results tell your doctor whether the nerve is damaged.
  • Electromyography (EMG): During an EMG, your doctor inserts a needle electrode through your skin into various muscles. The test evaluates the electrical activity of your muscles as they contract and remain motionless. The test results let your doctor know if there is damage to the nerves that go to the muscles.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Magnetic resonance imaging uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of your body in multiple planes. This test may be used if your doctor suspects that you have nerve root compression.
  • High-resolution ultrasound: Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of structures in your body. It is useful for diagnosing nerve entrapment syndromes such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Nerve compression treatment

The most commonly recommended treatment for nerve compression is rest for the affected area. Your doctor will ask you to stop all activities that cause or aggravate the compression.

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Depending on the location of the pinched nerve, you may need a splint or support to immobilize the area. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, your doctor may recommend wearing a splint at night as well as during the day because wrists often flex and lengthen during sleep.


A physical therapist can teach you exercises that strengthen and stretch the muscles in the affected area to relieve pressure on the nerve. It may also suggest changes in activities that aggravate the nerve.


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofe or naproxen sodium can help relieve pain. Injections of corticosteroids, given by mouth or by injection, can also help minimize pain and inflammation.

Remember, your doctor will decide which medicine to take and how.


If the pinched nerve doesn’t improve within a few weeks to a few months with conservative treatments, your doctor may recommend surgery to treat it. The type of surgery depends on the location of the pinched nerve.

Surgery may involve, for example, removing part of the bone spurs in the spine or a herniated disc, or cutting the carpal ligament to allow more room for the nerve to run through the wrist.

Can nerve compression be prevented?

The following measures can help you avoid nerve compression:

  • Avoid incorrect positions. Do not cross your legs or lie in any position for long periods of time.
  • Include strength and flexibility exercises in your workouts regularly.
  • Limit repetitive activities and take frequent breaks from engaging in these activities.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

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