Nerve root irritation occurs most commonly when a structure next to the nerve becomes dysfunctional (e.g. swollen, inflamed and/or spasmed) as a result of protective guarding. This often occurs at the point where the nerves roots first exit your spine: at the neck for the arms, and at the lower back for the legs.
When nerve irritation is not tested and fixed, it can be the most significant reason for slow recovery from pain and injury and for recurring pain and injury.
What does nerve irritation feel like?
Commonly, nerve irritation can cause symptoms such as:
– Radiating pain down the arm or the leg
– Muscle guarding, spasm, or cramping
– Numbness, and
– Pins & needles
– Aches that do not ease with pain medication
– Difficulty finding a comfortable, pain-free position
– Latent pain/tightness in response to stretching, posture, or activity, and
– No pain, but a tightness that does not loosen up (e.g. in the neck, back, hamstrings, etc.)
What is not commonly known is that nerve irritation can be a significant contributing factor to any musculoskeletal or sports pain, stiffness, or injury, with or without the symptoms above. Each person’s experience of symptoms will often be different from case to case. Consequences of untreated nerve root irritation include:
– Slower healing and recovery
– Treatments applied do not hold well
– Smaller improvements or none at all, and
– High chance of injury recurrence
These are the main reasons why EA Physiotherapists always look to assess and treat nerve root irritation first.
What can I do to help resolve my nerve irritation?
Nerves are the most sensitive structures in the body thus resolving any nerve irritation requires a gentle approach. Unfortunately conventional exercises that you might use to release a tight muscle or joint (e.g. stretches) are not effective at treating nerve root irritation – in fact, in most cases this can lead to the irritation getting worse.
An Elite Akademy Physiotherapist can help you resolve the nerve irritation anywhere in the body by using specialised hands-on techniques in session. The best course of action once you leave the clinic is to prevent re-aggravation of the nerves through activity limitation and having minimal delay between further sessions. You should only need to limit your regular activities in the early stages of recovery.
In severe cases, prescribed medication may be helpful. If nerve irritation does not resolve quickly with the hands-on techniques, your physiotherapist will help you find an alternate solutions to resolve it.
For most cases, until the nerve irritation is fixed, the following rules apply:
– NO stretching
– NO exercise, or limited exercise as guided by your EA physiotherapist
– DO NOT sit for longer than necessary
– DO NOT use the arm or leg in a stretched out position
Example: No feet-up while sitting, no striding out with walking, no reaching behind to the back seat, no carrying in that arm or over that shoulder
– DO NOT prop your head up with pillows to read/use a computer while lying on your back (it is better to be lying on your side to read or having the laptop up high enough on cushions so you don’t have to prop up your head)
– For the times you have to sit, ensure you use the best possible ergonomic position, sit in a firm chair (like a dining chair) and no sitting on couches
– For the times you have to drive, ensure the seat is as close to the pedals as practical and that your elbows are bent as you drive. Where possible get someone to drive for you, especially if you are having troubles using the stick or pedals
– When you walk, take small steps and do your best to avoid limping
After your nerve root irritation is fixed, your EA physiotherapist can show you how to prevent recurrence; in most cases this will require some changes to postural habits or improvement of technique during certain activities.
To speak to an Elite Akademy Physiotherapist or book an appointment, please call: (+613) 8344 4948 or visit our Online Bookings page.