Nerve Irritation

Nerve irritation occurs most commonly when a structure next to the nerve such as a joint, muscle and/or ligament becomes swollen or inflamed due to accumulative strain. Your body reacts to protect the nerves because they are the most sensitive parts of the body.

What does nerve irritation feel like?amandaclient2

Commonly, nerve irritation can cause symptoms such as:

  • Radiating pain down the arm or the legs
  • Muscle guarding, spasm, or cramping
  • Numbness, and or
  • 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
  • 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 often differs from case to case.

What if I have nerve irritation and it is not treated?

Over many clients and treatment sessions we have witnessed:

  • Slower healing and recovery
  • Treatments applied do not hold well
  • Smaller improvements or no improvement
  • High chance of injury recurrence

Clients find that symptoms may subside with long periods of rest, but commonly the symptoms recur with return to activity if the nerve component of their condition is not solved.

What does nerve irritation mean for my MSK physiotherapist?

We know that nerves are the most sensitive parts of the body, and that when nerves are dysfunctional they are a priority to be fixed. We don’t want any clients to have nerve-gliding dysfunctions slowing their recovery or causing their condition to recur. We assess nerve dynamics throughout the whole body for every client because we wouldn’t want to miss something this important.

How do I know if I have Nerve Irritation and what should I expect?

Your MSK Solutions physiotherapist will perform neural dynamic testing (NDT);  they will check both arms, legs and your neck.  Your physiotherapist will ask you to feel how well you are testing. If your nerve tests indicate that you have nerve irritation your physiotherapist will treat this first.

Even with good treatment, pain may not initially respond proportionally to the rate of improvement. You may have to be patient over a few days until the treatment effect is nearly 100%. This means even if the nerve irritation is improving you may not ‘feel’ like it is getting better. The NDTs are the most accurate measure of progress and they will reveal how close you are to being fixed.

Please note this information is general and individuals vary, so it is very important you are assessed and get good advice from your MSK solutions physiotherapist about how this condition might relate to you.

What treatment will I need to resolve my nerve irritation?

Treatment to 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. Your physiotherapist will resolve this by using specialised hands-on neural interface treatment techniques.

Once you leave the clinic, the best course of action to prevent re-aggravation of the nerves is activity limitation, and minimal delay between further sessions. It is recommended that you resolve the nerve irritation quickly, over 2-4 sessions in a period of 1 week. You should only need to limit your regular activities in the early stages of recovery.

In severe cases, medication from you GP may be helpful in the short term. If nerve irritation does not resolve quickly with our hands-on techniques, your therapist will help you find an alternative solution to resolve it.

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.  It is recommended that you resolve the nerve irritation quickly over 2-4 sessions in a period of 1 week.  You should only need to limit your regular activities in the early stages of recovery.

In severe cases, prescribed medication from you GP may be helpful for the short term.   If nerve irritation does not resolve quickly with the hands-on techniques, your therapist will help you find an alternative solution to resolve it.

What can I do get the best from my nerve treatment?

  • For most cases, until the nerve irritation is fixed, the following rules apply:
    • NO stretching
    • NO exercise, or limited exercise as guided by your therapist
    • AVOID sitting 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 to have your laptop high up, on top of cushions, so you don’t have to prop up your head)
    • When you sit, ensure you use the best possible ergonomic position, sit in a firm chair (like a dining chair) and no sitting on couches
    • When you 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 MSK Solutions physiotherapist can show you how to prevent recurrence by looking after the primary contributing factor (PCF). This is the reason the nerves became irritated in the first place; in most cases this will require some changes to postural habits or improvement of technique during certain activities.

To speak to an MSK Solutions physiotherapist in Auckland or book an appointment, please call: 022 453 1630 or book online