A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure (compression) is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues.
In some cases, this tissue might be bone or cartilage, such as in the case of a herniated spinal disk that compresses a nerve root. In other cases, muscle or tendons may cause the condition.
In the case of carpal tunnel syndrome, a variety of tissues may be responsible for compression of the carpal tunnel's median nerve, including swollen tendon sheaths within the tunnel, enlarged bone that narrows the tunnel, or a thickened and degenerated ligament.
A number of conditions may cause tissue to compress a nerve or nerves, including:
- Poor posture
- Rheumatoid or wrist arthritis
- Stress from repetitive work
- Hobbies or sports activities
This pressure causes inflammation of the nerve and disrupts the nerve's function. If a nerve is pinched for only a short time, there's 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.
Jan. 02, 2014
- NINDS pinched nerve information page. National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/pinchednerve/pinchednerve.htm?css. Accessed Sept. 12, 2013.
- Nerve compression syndromes. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal_and_connective_tissue_disorders/hand_disorders/nerve_compression_syndromes.html?qt=&sc=&alt=. Accessed Sept. 11, 2013.
- Overview of upper extremity peripheral nerve syndromes. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 11, 2013.
- Rutkove SB. Overview of lower extremity peripheral nerve syndromes. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 11, 2013.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/carpal_tunnel/detail_carpal_tunnel.htm. Accessed Sept. 11, 2013.
- Kothari MJ. Etiology of carpal tunnel syndrome. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 11, 2013.
- Cervical radiculopathy (pinched nerve). American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00332. Accessed Sept. 12, 2013.
- Piecyk ML, et al. Neurologic manifestations of rheumatoid arthritis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 12, 2013.
- Miller TT, et al. Nerve entrapment syndromes of the elbow, forearm and wrist. American Journal of Roentgenology. 2010;195:585.
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