Our central nervous system is a complex network of neurons and nerves extending from the brain and traveling throughout the body, controlling and regulating all movement and sensation and the processing of information.
When nerves become compressed, the pain can be intense, and the effects can be felt throughout the body, not just at the site where the nerve is pinched. It is important then to recognize the signs that you might be dealing with a pinched nerve.
Pinched nerve signs to watch out for
- Pain shooting down the extremities: If you have pain that travels from a central site near the spinal cord or cervical vertebrae and radiates down your arms or legs, this could be a sign of a pinched nerve. If the pain extends from your lower back, through your hips and down into your legs, this could be a sign that the sciatic nerve has become pinched or compressed. SImilarly, if you have pain extending from your neck down through your arms and into your hands, there may be a nerve being compressed causing pain along the length of the neural network.
- Pins and needles (paresthesia): We have all had the experience of a limb “falling asleep” and then getting painful tingles as it “wakes up.” In reality what happened was the position you were holding compressed a nerve and caused these sensations along the neural pathways connected to the site where the nerve was pinched. While this could just be something that happens after you have been sitting too long or sleeping awkwardly, frequent and persistent sensations of tingling can point to neuropathy issues with serious complications, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Reduced strength in the hands or weakness in the legs: if you have noticed a reduction in the power of your grip or a pronounced change in the strength of your legs during exercising or even walking, these could be signs of nerve compression. While sciatic nerve compression can cause feelings of weakness in the legs, pinched nerves in the neck or arms can cause loss of fine motor skills and grip strength.
- Incontinence of bladder or bowels: the body’s ability to regulate the elimination of waste depends on the nerve signals traveling to the bladder and to the intestines. If these signals are suffering from interruption or interference, it can cause the body to involuntarily eliminate urine or stool.
- Numbness: If you have numbness. Especially in the extremities, this could be a sign of nerve damage and requires treatment so the damage does not become permanent. While it is normal to experience a limb or hands or feet occasionally “falling asleep,” if this is happening frequently and does not seem to be related to an awkward position causing compression of the nerve, seeking help can prevent the numbness from becoming permanent.
While it is not unusual to occasionally have tingling or numbness after “sleeping wrong,” if the sensations are happening frequently, are becoming more painful, radiate from a spot down into the extremities or are causing other health issues including weakness or incontinence, seeking help from a professional is necessary to ensure that the nerve damage doesn’t permanently impact your health.