Most people that have experienced this painful condition will call it a “pinched nerve”, exclaiming, “it feels like I’ve pinched a nerve“. However, the majority of the time there’s a bit more going on!
Between each of the bones of the spine there are a pair of openings, which are individually called the intervertebral foramen or neural foramen. That’s Latin for a hole or opening between the bones of the spine or an opening for a nerve, respectively. This hole between the bones of the spine is where the nerves exit from the spine to form the connection between our brain and all of the other parts of our body.
This nerve opening along your spine must be kept open to maintain proper communication between your brain and your body. Think about it this way. Do you remember the last time your internet connection was down? That can be pretty frustrating. You have important work to get done or a message that you need to pass along but you are disconnected. Well when these nerve openings between the bones of the spine are closed off your brain and your bodies “internet connection” is down and they can’t properly communicate.
There are 24 movable bones in your spine that are designed to protect your spinal cord and the nerves of the spine while at the same time allowing you to have the freedom of normal movement: twisting, turning, flexing and extending. The spinal nerves exit from the spine in pairs, one on each side. Inside of the spinal column the nerves are connected to the spinal cord in a very organize way. Each segment or level of the spinal cord where a nerve connects services specific organs and tissues of your body. When a neural foramen (nerve opening) is blocked or obstructed, even slightly, your brain can’t do it’s job of controlling and regulating the functions of your body properly.
When a spinal bone is malpositioned or doesn’t move the way that it should this can encroach or close down these important nerve openings resulting in either a pinched nerve or an irritated nerve. In either case most people will refer to this as a “pinched nerve”.
The Two Types:
- Compression lesion: This is the fancy name for a pinched nerve. What is surprising to most people is that this specific problem is actually quite rare.
- Facilitated lesion: This is when the nerve root is over stretched or if the muscle or other connective tissues in close proximity to the nerve become inflamed or injured. When this happens the nerve becomes super sensitized. Imagine that someone or something has been bothering or aggravating you all day long and your at the point where any little thing could just make you scream. That is a “Facilitated lesion”.
Pain Spasm Pain: The Vicious Loop
A facilitated lesion most often starts as a painless process where the body is trying to protect an area that has a mild injury. Maybe you over stretched while lifting something our of your car or twisted yourself while reaching for something under your desk. Initially, you may not feel any pain. However, the area of the spine that has been mildly injured will become tight to restrict the normal movement of the area in an effort to protect it so that it can be repaired. Unfortunately, because we may not realize there is an injury we continue on with our normal activities and the simple fact that we continue to move and use the area allows it to become more and more aggravated until we reach the point that any little thing will cause it to scream. At the point where we reach “pain” the protective reaction of the body becomes stronger and muscle tension becomes muscle spasm. The muscle spasm further aggravates an area which is already facilitated, which in turn causes more pain and the cycle pain spasm pain repeats and repeats.
Remember that bones are a static structure of the body. Bones don’t move on their own – they must be moved by a muscle. Similarly, muscles don’t move the bones of our body unless they are given the signal to do so by our nervous system. In the pain spasm pain loop the facilitated nerve is almost always the culprit. Our job is to locate these areas of your spine and help to bring things back into balance.
A Specific Nudge
A chiropractic examination is designed to helps us identify areas of your spine where the spinal bones and joints are malpositioned or not moving properly as these are often times the cause of a facilitated lesion. Then, through a specific little nudge called a chiropractic adjustment we help your body to “right itself” thus allowing the nerve irritation to be reduced.
Chiropractic care is a natural way to restore and maintain the normal function of your spine and nervous system. Abnormal spine and nervous system function can lead to a variety of health problems. Chiropractors regularly help patients to recover from health concerns that on the surface appear unrelated to a problem in their spine. Remember spinal dysfunction leads to nervous system dysfunction which in turn causes health problems. Chiropractors help spinal function which helps nervous system function which leads to improved health.
Give us a call today to find out how chiropractic care can help.
FAQs on Pinched Nerves:
How long does it take for nerve irritation to reduce?
There are many factors that help to determine how long the healing process will be. For some pain relief may be instantaneous. While for others it can take many weeks or even months. The biggest factors that affect the healing process include: how long have you had your problem, are you following your treatment schedule, are you getting the proper rest, hydration and nutrition, do you smoke, are you in otherwise in good health? Most patients will experience a sense of good progress while they are following our recommendations. We will do our best to provide you with a good estimate of how long your healing time may be.
My friend/co-worker/family member only needed one visit?
It is true that a single visit can sometimes produce amazing pain relief. However, this type of result is relatively rare and is most often short lived. If the underlying muscles and supportive tissues of the spine are not strengthened and reconditioned, a relapse or worsening of the condition can often occur. Clinical experience demonstrates that the majority of adult patients starting chiropractic care today will have significant levels of damage and adaptive changes to the bones, joints, muscles and other supportive structures of the spine. This leaves a spine in a state where it is easily injured from normal day to day activities and less likely to recover from injury without treatment. A single “miracle” adjustment may offer significant relief it rarely if ever produces permanent positive changes to the function of the spine.
For Your Health,
Dr. Scott Van Dam