I have nerve damage caused by a long-term impinged nerve, more commonly known as a pinched nerve. This is my story.
My Experience With Pinched Nerves
I have nerve damage caused by a long-term impinged nerve, more commonly known as a pinched nerve. Actually, I have a couple of pinched nerves. After a year or so of dealing with the pain and other pinched-nerve symptoms, I finally went to the doctor—several doctors, as it turned out.
After a few MRIs and nerve conduction tests, I learned that I had a pinched nerve in my neck and a pinched nerve in my back. The neurologist also told me that I had the worst case of carpal tunnel that he’d ever seen, and I have it in both hands.
The nerve leading from my neck to my left hand and arm is being “double crushed.” In other words, the nerve is being impinged at both ends—from the pinched nerve in the neck and from the carpal tunnel syndrome. That arm tingles, burns, and sometimes feels like ants are crawling on it.
The worst, however, is the itching, which is sometimes maddening. It’s a deep itch that I can’t get to. When it’s acting up, sometimes I claw the arm in my sleep and wake up bloodied.
What Is a Pinched Nerve?
What is a pinched nerve? Actually, it’s just what it sounds like. It’s the term used when a nerve has been impinged, or pinched. The pinching can be caused by any type of constriction or compression, including bulging discs, herniated discs, or bone spurs.
Inflammation and swelling in tissues that surround a nerve can also compress the nerve. These tissues can include muscle tissues, connective tissues, or cartilage. In any case, the nerve or nerves are damaged in some way.
Oftentimes, more than one nerve is affected, as in carpal tunnel syndrome. With carpal tunnel syndrome, the pinched nerve or nerves can be caused by inflamed ligaments and tendons, along with enlarged bones.
Nerve damage might be temporary or permanent. If the cause is discovered soon enough, and if the pressure can be relieved, the nerve will usually be able to return to normal function. If the pressure or constriction isn’t removed, permanent nerve damage can occur.
Pinched nerve symptoms can be different for different people, and even with the same person, the symptoms can be different at different times. It also depends, of course, on which nerve or nerves are involved.
The most common pinched nerve symptoms and symptoms of nerve damage are numbness, burning pain, weakness, and tingling. It might feel like the affected area has “fallen asleep.”
Some people describe their symptoms of nerve damage as feeling like an electrical shock. And as I’ve already mentioned, some people experience deep, intense itching with nerve damage.
Nerve damage can result in peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral nerves emerge from the spinal cord and brain, connecting the central nervous system to the body’s limbs and organs. These nerves might involve motor neurons or sensory neurons. When these nerves are damaged and aren’t functioning properly, the condition is called peripheral neuropathy. A single nerve might be affected, or the peripheral neuropathy can include groups of nerves. In some cases, the entire body can be affected.
Peripheral neuropathy can cause pain, weakness, lack of coordination, sweating, and muscle loss. Some people lose almost all feeling in an appendage.
For example, my grandfather had peripheral neuropathy in his hands, and he once suffered a terrible burn because he didn’t know he was resting his hand on a hot stove burner.
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Peripheral neuropathy can also cause a lack of bladder control, difficulty swallowing, sexual problems, or difficulties with digestion. It all depends on which nerve or nerves are affected.
Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy
There are several causes of peripheral neuropathy. One of the most common is diabetes. Other causes of peripheral neuropathy are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, shingles, kidney disease, liver disease, AIDS, Lyme disease, alcoholism, hepatitis C, Guillain-Barre syndrome, tumors, hypothyroidism, exposure to toxins, and vitamin deficiencies.
Nerve damage and pressure can also be causes of peripheral neuropathy. These can result from injuries or from anything that causes trauma to the nerves. This might be something as seemingly innocent as remaining a long period of time in an awkward position or repeating the same motion over and over.
Pinched Nerve in the Neck
My pinched nerve in the neck is in my cervical spine and was most likely caused by weightlifting and carrying around a heavy bust for several decades. I have bone growing where it shouldn’t be growing, and that bone is scraping the nerve as it exits my spine.
Any type of repetitive motion involving my left arm or shoulder will trigger the symptoms. Tilting my head back or to the left side will also make my symptoms worse. Tucking my chin into my chest and tilting my head to the right will often help alleviate the symptoms. Of course, I can’t go through life in these positions all the time.
The symptoms are the same as those already described, with a few extras. Sometimes I get bad headaches that start at the back of my neck and radiate up to my head. At other times, my neck feels weak, as if it isn’t strong enough to hold up my head.
The pinched nerve in my neck is on the left side of my cervical spine, so the pain and other symptoms affect my left shoulder and arm. Whenever I exert extra pressure, as in the case of vomiting or coughing, the pain is much worse. I sometimes feel as if a giant hand was squeezing me.
Pinched Nerve in Lower Back
A pinched nerve in the back can occur in any section of your spine – the cervical spine, the thoracic spine, the lumbar spine, or the sacral curve. The pinched nerve in my lower back is in my lumbar spine. I think it’s at L-3 and L-4. Anyway, it’s on my right side, so it affects my right leg, my right buttock, and the right side of my lower back.
My symptoms include shooting or throbbing pains, along with “pins and needles” tingling. Sometimes after walking for just short distances, my leg goes numb. This is usually most evident in my thigh, for some reason.
And this is really strange: sometimes it feels exactly like droplets of water are dripping down my leg! Nerve damage can definitely cause some strange sensations.
Sciatic Nerve Damage
I experienced a pinched sciatic nerve when I was pregnant with my second child. My obstetrician told me that the baby’s head was pushing directly on my sciatic nerve, causing sciatica. Thankfully, the sciatica was temporary. As soon as the baby was born, the pain went away immediately.
Sciatic nerve damage is usually caused by a pinched sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve roots are located in the lower back and are connected to the buttocks, the back of the thigh, the back of the calf, the ankle, and the foot on the affected side.
Sciatic nerve damage is often caused by herniated or bulging discs in the lower back. The misplaced disc presses on the nerve, causing a pinched sciatic nerve. This often results in shooting pains, numbness, and/or tingling.
Sciatic nerve damage can have other causes, as well. These include bone spurs, tumors, and spinal stenosis. And, as I’ve already mentioned, sciatica can be caused by pregnancy.
I wish I could tell you that there’s an easy, surefire pinched nerve treatment, but there isn’t. At least, I haven’t yet discovered one. There are a few things that might help, however, and provide you with some pinched nerve relief. Since I’ve answered the question about what is a pinched nerve, you understand more about the causes.
Pinched nerve treatment usually focuses on the causes themselves. For example, if you have a pinched nerve in the lower back that’s causing problems, you need to “free up” some space for that particular nerve. Sometimes just changing positions can help. Sometimes I have to get into a V shape in my Lazy Boy. Sometimes lying down and elevating and bending my knees helps. In some cases, rest is all that’s needed.
To open up space in my cervical spine, I use an over-the-door mechanism that stretches my neck.
Stretching might also prove pinched nerve relief for other parts of the body. I often get my husband to stretch my legs, one at a time, up and back as I lie on my back. This is painful when it’s done, but afterwards, it often helps.
If the pinched nerve is causing painful muscle spasms, a prescription muscle relaxer sometimes helps. Injections of cortisone or other corticosteroids might help, too. I had high hopes for my first epidural injection for pinched nerve treatment for the pinched nerve in my back, but I was really disappointed in the outcome. Getting the injection was no day at the beach, but I didn’t mind enduring it if it meant long-term relief. Unfortunately, the pinched nerve relief only lasted for about three days. Of course, those three days were wonderful, but I was expecting them to last longer. I guess I should feel lucky – the injections have no effect on some people.
Some people with pinched nerve pain use pain patches, especially lidocaine patches. You might also want to try creams that contain capsaicin. Some people find nerve pain relief by using moist heat or ice packs. Massage might be beneficial, also.
If you haven’t tried using a TENS unit, I definitely suggest giving that a try. My TENS unit doesn’t always help with nerve pain, but when it does, it’s great. Occasionally, when nothing else works, I have to take a prescription narcotic pain reliever. I also take Cymbalta daily, which helps with the pain of nerve damage, especially with peripheral neuropathy.
If you can’t find any pinched nerve treatment that helps relieve your symptoms, you might consider surgery, if it’s an option. Several of my physicians have cautioned me that surgery should be used only as a last resort, however.
My best friend had surgery for a pinched nerve in the neck, and it just made things worse. When my symptoms of nerve damage are screaming at me, I use just enough treatment to make the pain bearable. I know that I’ll never be completely pain-free. It’s just something I’ve had to learn to live with. Of course, I could always take more pain pills and stay “zonked out” all the time, but I’d miss out on too much of life like that. Start off with the simplest and safest options, and if those don’t work, move to the next level of pinched nerve treatment.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Linda Blase on March 11, 2017:
Pretty much sums it up. Have terrible spasms by shoulder blade on left side, severe itching on top of arm, center of back, and left cheek. Mess started trying to pull someone up from a recliner who had a hip replacement, could not haul 175#'s as I only weigh 118, BIG mistake! I already have neck fusions and probably messed that up. Neck is stiff, three fingers on left hand numb and spasms go right down my left side to base of spine, What a mess!
oldblackdog on February 21, 2017:
I happened upon this looking for more info on a broken wrist. I have had an itchy upper back fro a few years now - pinched nerve. I have a steroid type cream ( prescription) which alleviates it when it is out of control. It took a while to realize it wasn't"dry skin" - the Dr recognized it after a short look at my back ( signs of scratching across one area). No pain.
I also just had ulnar nerve surgery to eliminate the increasing numbness in my pinkie/ringfinger/palm, but have no idea if it will be successful.
I have been reading about people who use some sort of cannabis oil to counter the pain and irritation from neuropathy, with success. Not available in many places but a definite option.
Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on August 15, 2016:
@joanne - your son will probably need to be evaluated by a spine specialist. They can surgically repair the bulging disc.
Other things to try include a prescription for gabapentin (Neurontin), ibuprophen (NSAIDS), and physical therapy.
On the vitamin side, you can try B12 (Methylfolate), which shows some promise in helping nerve damage.
Make sure your son is also evaluated for diabetes which can cause nerve damage.
Debbie on August 20, 2015:
Thank you so much for explainig this. Im positive it will help many.
I have had several failed spinal fusion back surgeries and trust me its a slippery slope ... each time ive tried again in the desperate need for relief from this pain its made matters MUCH WORSE. After four failed surgeries the final straw left me paralysed from the incision on my left hip down to just past my knee. From the moment i awoke from the anesthesia i couldn't move my left leg
Linda on November 22, 2014:
Has anyone ever experienced the effect of falling asleep after the nerve is pinched and before the actual pain starts setting in? This happens sometimes when I have been sitting at the computer. A first I don't realize what is happening. Last night I fell into a sleep around 7pm that lasted for several hours. When I went to bed I began having a lot of discomfort from a pinched nerve. I have noticed this happening on several occasions.
eric on June 10, 2014:
Good to know I'm not alone.
So here's my list.
3 bulged discs in neck
Had surgery (discectomy) to try to slow down the syrinx growth
Bulged disc middle back.
Now it gets fun....
3 bulged lumbar discs, 2 may be herniated. Seeing surgeon tomorrow.
Tried epidural. Actually contracted Hepatitis C from the pain management clinic. Had to do 6 months of interferon treatment. Horrible stuff. Made me suicidal. Got rid of the hep, sued along with 5 others, settled out of court.
And now for the past 5 weeks, numb thigh and lower right back, intense itching in groin area and thigh, skin stings to touch, shooting pains and spasms, intense deep pain in lower back. Feels like a bowling ball is inside of my right abdomen.
I've had back pain my entire life. It cost me baseball scholarships. This new pain is something different. I feel broken. Like this is how I'll be the rest of my life. Not sure I'm up to the task but I have to keep working to support my family. Driving to work is very difficult and it's an hour each way to work and back. Disability isn't an option financially.
One of the hardest things to convey to people, is the amount of pain you're in. They will say "yeah, my back went out once". You just want to slap them or magically put your pain into them so they can understand what it feels like.
You have to give up all the hobbies you used to love and find new ones like......reading.
Life goes on I guess.
Macdonald on May 20, 2014:
I have recurring electric shock sensation on my right hand whe i am laying on my bed facing upwards. If i seat it disappears. Then my knees have a cracking pain especially when i woke up from bed or after driving for a long journey or sitting in a cramped position for some time. My sex has also been badly affected because its painfull to kneel or open my legs by more than 60 degrees. Am told that India has the best facilities , can anyone help me . I am desperate . My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please assist me. God Bless.
Alyssa on December 04, 2013:
My name is Alyssa and I am 18. I've had those sensations from left of my left knee all the way up to mid-thigh. Constant itch feeling that cannot be calmed, numbness and extreme burning that comes and goes in the night. I believe It's in my lower back because after surgery the way I fell asleep caused my other leg to do the same. The itching is becoming extreme nowadays. I did notice Taking Naprasin made the pain start to go away. It worked for me.
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on September 24, 2013:
Thanks for the tip, Patricia!
patriciaroberts on September 24, 2013:
I have RA very bad ,losing the use of my rt.hand and so=on,i get these flare ups on my arm that nearly drive me insane by the burning and itching and it feel like my skin is moving, I have tried everything to stop the itch,the best thing I found is sunburn gel,i put in frig so it is soothing,try it ,it mite work for you. my flare ups can last as 2weeks. GOD Bless !
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 08, 2013:
Daning Queen, sorry - I'm just now seeing your comment. I'm wearing a TENS unit right now for my neck and right shoulder, and it's really helping to block the pain. I think it's definitely worth a try!
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 08, 2013:
Tracey, thanks for adding this info. I sometimes get those knots in my back, and it feels wonderful when they're massaged. Thanks for visiting!
tracey on May 08, 2013:
look up 'trigger points' on the internet. Pinched nerves can be released and helped by finding and massaging trigger points which are very sensitive points we have all over our bodies. By locating these and pressing or massaging these points they will release over time. Its not something that a lot of doctors know about. I have had problems for 2 years with tingling/heavy and itchy legs and found I had knots in my peroneal muscle which was causing the strange sensations, by massaging the 'trigger points' it released the knots and made the symptoms disappear, just need to sort the itching out on my head now. Also accupucture seems to have helped a great deal as I also suffer from ME.
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 21, 2013:
Daisy, I feel your pain! I've also had the itching, along with other strange sensations that can come from a pinched nerve. Sometimes it's maddening! Thanks for reading!
Moon Daisy from London on March 21, 2013:
I googled pinched nerve, and found this hub! :)
I have a problem with pinched nerves too. I have a terrible itchy spot (well, a place, there are no spots), where it itches and burns under my skin. Just near my left shoulder blade. And when I scratch it the itch moves somewhere else. It's so frustrating. I have had lots of problems with ribs on that side, and my chiropractor says that probably caused nerve damage. I haven't been to a neurologist but perhaps that's the next place to go. It's annoying to know there is no real treatment.
Thanks for writing this hub, it's very useful.
Dancing queen on February 27, 2013:
I have been in agony for the last two years on and off.. The last three months I have felt suicidal with the pain. I have to lay on the floor to eat my meals, it's impossible for me to drive for more than five minutes . I had an MRI and results were a bulging disc in my lower back and nerve sticking out. I get pain in my buttocks all the way down my leg right into my foot, this is the left side. Had four different lots of drugs and nothing has helped eleviate the pain... Some one has suggested a tens machine, whilst I wait to see the neurosurgeon, do you think this could help me get some life back? Because I am at the point of no return!!!!!
Gloria Siess from Wrightwood, California on May 23, 2012:
I have nerve damage and am also diabetic and I appreciated this Hub/good job!
Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on February 18, 2012:
What is worse is that the insurance companies refuse to believe that people with 2 pinched nerves in the spine plus carpal tunnel and hand and wrist pain have a disability.
I am currently fighting for benefits from private insurance and social security. I am 59 years old and just can't take the pain anymore. I have had 2 back surgeries, 5 hand surgeries and tons of nerve damage, yet the insurance company still says that I can perform the essential functions of my job.
I can barely walk, much less sit at a computer or workbench all day. I have to take vicodin to sleep every night and sometimes during the day too. Would you trust me to do a compatible blood transfusion for you or a family member?
Kristin Trapp from Illinois on February 18, 2012:
Habee - I feel so bad that you have not been able to get any long term relief for the pain caused by pinched nerves. My son, who is about to turn 20, just had surgery for a herniated disc that was causing him tremendous leg pain. He is off at college so it made trying to help him even more difficult. We were considering the cortisone injections but were concerned that they aren't necessarily a long term solution, as you in fact experienced. We opted to go straight to surgery and not mess with other options.
It's been a little more than a week since his surgery and we are very hopeful that he will recover well since the material pressing on the nerve has been removed. In fact, I am in the process of writing a hub about it, including a photo of what was removed. I wish you the best and wonder if you too might consider surgery, at least for pinched nerve in your lower back.