Nerves carry signals from your brain to the rest of your body: You can think of them as electrical wires that bring energy to a neighborhood, with the brain as the power plant.
These types of messages may include signals to make muscles in your arms move, signals that let you know a part of your body is under pressure, or pain signals to indicate that something is wrong.
Much like wires, nerves are fragile and can be easily damaged by stretching, continual pressure, or traumatic injury.
When a nerve is lacerated, the internal wire of that nerve may break, but not the protective layer that surrounds it. In such cases, your brain may no longer receive signals from the part of the body where the nerve injury occurred.
When a nerve is under constant pressure, it may send continuous pain signals that lead to chronic pain. While these nerves can often repair themselves in time, the persistent pain or numbness they cause can interfere with your daily tasks.
Acute trauma is another common cause of nerve injury and pain. A pinched nerve is the term used to describe a nerve that has been compressed, impinged, or otherwise damaged by surrounding tissues. A nerve may be pinched by bones, cartilage, muscles, tendons, or spinal discs.
Common signs and symptoms of a pinched nerve include:
Although a pinched nerve is often associated with neck or lower back pain, nerves in any part of your body, including your wrist, elbow, or ankle, can become compressed. Such injuries can also occur from age-related degeneration.
Treatment for an injured nerve depends on the location and extent of the damage, which is generally determined through a nerve conduction velocity (NCV) study, a diagnostic test that measures electrical nerve impulses through electrodes placed on your skin.
Care typically includes rest, which means avoiding any activities that aggravate the problem or cause further injury.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen can be used to help minimize pain, while physical therapy can be useful for relieving nerve pressure.
Other treatments include:
A nerve block is an anesthetic or anti-inflammatory injection that treats nerve pain by targeting an injured nerve or group of nerves to cut off their pain signals and decrease inflammation.
A lumbar sympathetic nerve block is a type of nerve block that’s specifically designed to alleviate chronic leg pain caused by injury to the sympathetic nerve.
A spinal cord stimulator (SCS) is a device that’s surgically placed under your skin, where it sends a mild electric current through your spinal cord to help manage chronic pain.
A wire carries the current from the pulse generator at the core of the device to the nerves in your spine. This electricity manages pain by interrupting the injured nerves that are sending pain signals to your brain.