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Understanding Nerve Entrapment and How to Treat It

Understanding Nerve Entrapment and How to Treat It

From the top of your head to the tips of your toes, there’s a complex network of hundreds of nerves keeping your brain informed about what’s happening in the rest of your body and the world around you. 

Unfortunately, this sophisticated communication system only operates under the best working conditions. Anything from an injury to disease can disrupt your nervous system and cause incredibly painful symptoms. 

At the US Neuropathy Centers in Marietta, Georgia, one type of nerve damage our team of experts often sees is called nerve entrapment. Here’s a closer look at this common nerve problem and how we treat it. 

What is nerve entrapment?

Nerve entrapment (or nerve compression syndrome) occurs when surrounding tissue squeezes and compresses your nerve. It typically affects nerves in a single location, such as your torso, limbs, and other extremities. 

These nerves, which extend from your central nervous system (your spinal cord and brain), are known as peripheral nerves.

Besides pain, nerve entrapment can also cause numbness, tingling, reduced function, and muscle weakness at the site of the irritated nerve. 

Nerve entrapment stems from repetitive injuries, but medical conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and hypothyroidism can also contribute. 

These health problems lead to reduced blood flow to your nerves, swelling in the surrounding tissue, damage to your nerves’ insulation, and structural changes. As a result, your nerves malfunction and become painful.

You’re most at risk if you’re an adult over the age of 30 or are female. Those who have circulation-inhibiting health conditions or jobs that require repeating certain movements are also at an increased risk.

What are some common types of nerve entrapment?

There are a few different types of nerve entrapment, and each affects a different peripheral nerve. Here are some of the most common. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome

You’ve likely heard of carpal tunnel syndrome, as it affects nearly 3-6% of adults. This type of nerve entrapment occurs when your median nerve, which extends from the upper arm to the thumb, becomes compressed and irritated at the wrist. 

Tarsal tunnel syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is the painful result of compression on your posterior tibial nerve. This specific nerve branches off the sciatic nerve in your lower back and runs down to your ankle. It passes through the tarsal tunnel, a narrow passage in your ankle flanked by bone and soft tissue. 

Other nerve entrapments

Wherever there’s a nerve passing through a tunnel-like structure, nerve entrapment is a possibility. Other common types of nerve entrapments are:

Nerve entrapment can be painful and significantly affect your daily life. But there’s a variety of treatments available to release the pressure on your nerves and help you find relief from your symptoms. 

How is nerve entrapment treated?

First, we meet with you to discuss your symptoms and health history. We then conduct a series of tests to assess your nerve function. 

After gathering this information, we create a treatment plan customized for you. Depending on your needs, we may recommend the following:

Nerve stimulation

With nerve stimulation, we deliver mild electrical pulses into your nerves to block pain signals. We insert a small wire lead near the affected nerve, which is attached to an external pulse transmitter. You have total control over the electrical pulses through a remote. 

MLS therapy

MLS therapy is an FDA-approved treatment that harnesses the power of high and low light wavelengths to encourage healing. The controlled laser energy effectively reduces inflammation and pain without causing damage to your skin and other tissue. 

Physical therapy

Physical therapy exercises focused on strength building and flexibility can also reduce the pressure on your nerves and avoid future problems. 

Surgery

Sometimes, your nerve entrapment is severe or advanced and requires surgery. We perform a minimally invasive outpatient procedure called endoscopic decompression. 

This involves inserting a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera attached to the end into your body. We can then locate the affected nerve and surgically decompress it. 

If you’d like more information about nerve entrapment, request an appointment online or over the phone at our Marietta, Georgia, office.

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