What is Nerve Compression? Why Does It Happen? Types

Nerve compression can occur as a result of crushing, pinching or stretching a nerve in our body. It usually affects a single region. Often there may be compression of the nerves in the arms and legs, but it can also occur in the trunk. Symptoms such as pain, numbness, muscle wasting and weakness can be seen in the area where the affected nerve goes.

Nerve compression can occur due to the excessive number of certain movements, for example, as an occupational disease. Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis , diabetes, hypothyroidism (goiter) may predispose to nerve compression.

Types of Nerve Compression

There are separate nerve compression syndromes that affect many nerve fibers in our body. Some of these are those:

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The most common type of nerve compression is carpal tunnel syndrome . It is caused by compression of the median nerve in the wrist. The median nerve is a nerve that runs from the arm to the thumb. It passes through a groove called the carpal tunnel in the wrist. Forcing the wrist and the associated edema can lead to compression of the median nerve. Complaints such as thinning of the muscles on the thumb side of the hand, numbness and pain, especially in the first three fingers, may be seen.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome is the second most common type of nerve compression. It is also known as ulnar neuropathy or ulnar nerve entrapment. The ulnar nerve is compressed at the elbow. When we hit our elbow on a hard place, the severe pain and electricity we feel in the arm is due to the passage of the ulnar nerve between the bone and the skin in this area, which is prone to injury. The ulnar nerve can be compressed by keeping the elbow bent for a long time or resting on a hard surface.

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Suprascapular Nerve Compression Syndrome

It is the compression of the suprascapular nerve as it passes through the notch on the shoulder blade. It can cause pain and muscle weakness in the shoulder. Nerves can be damaged due to repetitive movements, such as stretching, ganglion cyst, and trauma.

Guyon’s Canal Syndrome

It occurs when the ulnar nerve is compressed as it passes through the narrow groove called Guyon’s canal in the wrist. Ganglion cyst, fracture or dislocation of the hamate bone in the wrist, tumors such as lipoma, ulnar artery thrombosis or aneurysm can cause it. It can also occur in cyclists depending on the way they hold the handlebars. There may be symptoms such as thinning of the hand muscles, weakening of the hand grip strength, clawing in the fourth and fifth fingers, pain and numbness.

Meraljia Parestetika

As a result of compression of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve , numbness and tingling may occur in the outer thigh .

Radial Nerve Compression Syndrome

If the radial nerve, which is the third main nerve together with the median and ulnar nerves in the arm, is compressed, wrist and finger functions may be adversely affected. Pain, tingling, and weakness in the wrist can be seen on the back of the wrist and forearm, on the thumb side.

What Causes Nerve Compression?

It is most often caused by repetitive movements related to occupational or hobby pursuits. Using a keyboard and mouse, playing the piano can pose a risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. Traumas such as sprains, injuries, fractures can also result in nerve compression syndrome. Diabetes, hypothyroidism, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, pregnancy, obesity are diseases and conditions that increase the risk of nerve compression. With injury or compression, the blood circulation of the nerve is disturbed, edema develops in the nerve and surrounding tissues, the nerve sheath is damaged and if it progresses, it can lead to loss of nerve fibers.

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Diagnosis can be made by complaints, examination findings and EMG (electromyography) examination. Ultrasonography and MRI can also aid in diagnosis.


The main treatment methods are modifying the movements that cause nerve compression, controlling risk factors, using a splint such as a wristband , edema reducing and painkillers, physical therapy applications, and corticosteroid injections . Surgery can be performed in advanced nerve compression.

Image used: Carpal tunnel syndrome – wikipedia.org

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