What is a Trapped Nerve

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Pinched Nerve You are probably reading this because you are sitting there with a feeling you have a trapped nerve somewhere in your body. The pain of a nerve being trapped can be so sore and painful to think of even trying to move at times.

Have you have felt a sudden instant pain or noticed this nagging ache getting worse throughout the day after waking up this morning? First thing is don’t worry you are not alone on this one. Many people in the UK today are suffering pain in their bodies related to their joints, muscles and nerves. They may think this sore feeling they have is coming from a trapped nerve at that point, but is it?

Today I want to help you understand what is a trapped nerve, our different types of nerves, nerve entrapment symptoms and tests for compressed nerves.

The Nerve

First of all I must warn you this may be quite a long article, but I have tried to write it in easy to digest information. Are you ready? Here goes.

Nerves are all over our bodies. They start from our brain, travel to all our internal organs, out to the fingers and toes and finally the skin all over our body. So basically nerves are everywhere! It is important you know which types of nerves we could be dealing with when we have a problem with them.

The Two Main Types Of Nerves

To start with we have two main nervous systems:

  1. Central Nervous System (CNS)
  2. Peripheral Nervous System (PNS)

The central nervous system is our brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system is all the other nerves.

Why is it important to know we have two main nervous systems? Nerve pain (a.k.a neuropathic pain) is firstly diagnosed by a doctor according to which of the two above nervous system is being effected.

A neurologist may say you are suffering an upper motor neuron lesion or a lower motor neuron lesion.

Probably most people reading this article will fall into the peripheral nervous system and specifically the lower motor neuron lesion category. I say this because it is likely right now you are experiencing a pinched nerve pain coming from your spine going into your:

These are some of the more common areas for people to be feeling the pain and who are on the internet searching for help. Technically anything from the nerve root which exiting the spine at the intervertabral foramen is the peripheral nervous system.

I made a video to help you visualize what I mean by watching below.

You can also easily have a condition not coming from the spine, but more local to say the finger, toe, tooth, ear etc…

Some of the Symptoms

Now you want to know “what are some of the trapped nerve symptoms?” You might have a pain coming from pinched nerve problem if you:

  • Electric, shooting pain,
  • Deep throbbing pain,
  • Sore feeling in the bone,
  • Loss of feeling to touch,
  • Pins and needles in the skin,
  • Loss of temperature sensation,
  • Muscle twitches,
  • Sore to move,
  • Back pain,
  • Neck pain,
  • Changes in the texture of your skin,
  • Sciatica pain,
  • And many more symptoms…

The above symptoms can overlap various health conditions. To be able to properly diagnose a nerve compression injury a healthcare professional, like a chiropractor, would need both a good history and physical examination with possible further investigation tests.

Speaking of which, here of the best investigation test to diagnose a trapped nerve.

Pinched Nerve Tests

physical examination would help the diagnosis. The first part is always by observing say how your walking, moving or holding your posture. Are you in an antalgic neck posture, Minor’s sign when standing from a chair or have a painful gait with walking. Look for muscle wasting, muscle fasciculations or skin changes.

Orthopaedic tests are done to stress different tissues in your body. These orthoapedic tests can include Spurling’s Test, Straight Leg Raise, Slump Test, neck traction/compression etc…

Neurological examination as a basic would be sensory, motor and reflex checking. This is when your chiropractor would be getting you to walk on your heels and toes, using a reflex hammer to tap your bicep, tricep, patella and achilles reflexes. Looking for more sinister signs like a Babinski reflex, Hoffman’s reflex etc…

If they need more information advanced testing could be ordered to rule in or out a nerve source of pain. This could include x-rays, MRI scan or CAT scan, blood tests for inflammatory markers or infection, nerve conduction studies etc… To be honest what I call a true trapped nerve pain is one coming from a herniated disc or bulging disc in the spine compressing the spinal nerve root. An MRI scan is the best for seeing which nerve root is being compressed at the spine. Common ones are C4-5, C5-6, C6-7 and L4-5, L5-S1 nerve roots on the left or right side.

Funny enough I think I have seen more left leg sciatica pain and 50/50 left or right arm cervical radiculopathy pain. Which side do you have pain, left or right?

Nerve Compression Treatment Options

Again this all depends are we dealing with a problem in the brain/spinal cord or anywhere from the nerve root leaving the spine all the way to a finger or toe.

I have added some self-treatment tips which you can read by clicking the links in the body list above where I said you can get a trapped nerve pain feeling.

Once you have a diagnosis you can have a treatment plan which can range from quick relief like this guy or a longer rehabilitation process.

So Where is My Pain Coming From!

You probably have read this far just gone wow, that’s so much stuff, “how do I know if I have a pinched nerve?” Sorry, but that is why questions need to be asked first then some physical tests and maybe some advanced tests need to be done to rule in or out the question of a nerve source of pain.

I do have a great video simplifying the mystery of pain for you.

Sometimes you can a more sinister cause of pain like a slow progressive degenerative neurological condition.This is the case with say cervical spondylotic myelopathy. Then there are the more sudden shock trauma cases like what can happen in a car accident causing neck whiplash pain or a rugby tackle leaving you with a stinger injury or spinal shock.

The Bottom Line

Pain travels along a nerve pathway. If we had no nerves we would feel no pain. However, it is not always a problem with the nerve causing our aches and pains. This point is important is so that you can get an accurate diagnosis and the correct treatment to get better as soon as possible.

Pain is just a warning to the brain something is wrong. Health can be complicated, but i am trying to simplify what is a trapped nerve for you so that you get pain relief ASAP. Hope this helps and there is much more on the site to help you. If not I’m adding more content all the time.

Image Credit: Some rights reserved by carlos.a.martinez

About Gary Kirwan

Chiropractor who likes helping people get better using movement as medicine as I know that the body has a fantastic ability to heal itself. Keen interest in trapped nerve pain as I know too many people live in pain in this world.


  1. I suffering with sciatica from my right side , but the pain is staying in my lower ancle , I’m finding it hard to walk and it is keeping me up and I can’t sleep when my left ancle is touching the bed it feels like I’m pushing on a nerve and that’s when the pain starts . I’m on a lot of medication for it , but it takes the pain away for a few hours but then comes back with vengeance I’ve also tried deep heat , heat pads, but nothing is working. I’m now try a tens machine it sends shocks into my ancle . I’m now at a lose,my doctors say rest & exercise but nothing seems to be working. What can you suggest please.

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