Do I have a pinched nerve?

By Brooke Strickland

If you’ve ever had a pinched nerve in your back or neck, you know how uncomfortable they can be.  But how do you know if the symptoms you have are from a pinched nerve?  Doctors use a lettering system to identify the sections of the spine.  For example, bones from the cervical part of your neck are labeled C1-C7, top to bottom.  The lumbar vertebrate is labeled L1-L5.   Understanding a little more about the overall lumbar area will help you recognize if you indeed have a pinched nerve.

Nerves branch off from the spinal cord and when these are pinched, you’ll experience some symptoms.  If you’re experiencing pain in the L5 region, you’ll likely have weakness in your feet or toes or numbness at the top of the foot.  If you have a pinched nerve in the C5 area, you’ll likely have shoulder pain, possible numbness in the shoulder area, or weakness.  If you have pinched nerves in the C6, you’ll probably have pain that runs down your arm and into your thumb. If it’s in the C7 area, you’ll experience pain or numbness down the arm and into the middle finger.  Or if the pinched nerve is in C8 region, you’ll probably have pain or numbness on the outside of your hand, affecting the overall functioning of it. 

If your doctor in fact finds you have a pinched nerve, there are some ways to help minimize the pain.  There is no real treatment for a pinched nerve – it’s solely up to the body to heal itself.  Most pinched nerves can take up to weeks or months to heal and a patient usually has to learn how to effectively cope and live with the pain or numbness on a daily basis.  However, there are ways to help relieve pressure and pain.  Ask your doctor about exercises that are safe and helpful for your back to heal and help recondition your back.

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