A nerve is what causes us to be able to send and receive signals around our body. This means that it is responsible for both controlling our limbs and extremities as well as for giving us feedback in the form of tactile information and pain. A trapped nerve is, like it sounds, a case where the nerve gets trapped and is thereby ‘stuck’ under pressure. This might be a result of a bone or joint that is jutting out and trapping the nerve, or a muscle, or swelling. This then has one or more noticeable effects, either causing serious pain, lack of sensation, ‘tingling’ or a lack of movement – or several of these things combined.
The most common form of trapped nerve is the well known sciatica. Here the sciatic nerve becomes trapped by a slipped disk, or just from becoming entangled in the spine. This is the largest nerve in the body (hence the predominance of the problem) and is responsible for sensation and movement in various diffuse areas of the body. Thus trapping this nerve can have multiple undesirable effects, most of which are felt in the lower back where the nerve resides, down the legs and into the feet and buttocks. This will usually involve pain exacerbated by use, and/or a tingling sensation potentially with a lack of movement and other potential complications.
Another common condition revolving around a trapped nerve is carpal tunnel syndrome which occurs when the median nerve in the wrist gets compressed and crushed resulting in pain and loss of sensation and/or movement in the fingers. However a trapped nerve can occur anywhere on the body.
How you go about fixing a trapped nerve will depend on various factors including the severity, cause and location of the problem. If your trapped nerve is the result of swelling or injury then it may go away with time. Some trapped nerves become lodged after sudden awkward movements and these too can work their way out. If your trapped nerve is to do with swelling then of course using anti-inflammatory drugs and potentially an ice pack with elevation can help return space and freedom to that area.
Alternatively you might need a little help in removing the trapped nerve and in this case you may be referred to a physiotherapist who might be able to ease the pain by manipulating the joints and muscles. A normal massage in some cases can be enough to solve the problem.
In more chronic conditions such as carpal tunnel or sciatica it will be more difficult to solve the problem. Here you may find that pain gets worse with time and be taught some exercises to temporarily alleviate pain. Depending on the exact reason for the trapped nerve, surgery might be one option to release it manually. Alternatively a brace can help to take some of the pressure off. An epidural finally is a steroid injection delivered straight into the sciatic nerve which will bring more long term pain relief but is an invasive and sometimes dangerous procedure.