Thursday, January 7, 2010

What is a Pinched Nerve?

Chiropractors and neurologists typically use the term “pinched” nerve when they are talking about your back and neck. That term isn’t really true and to understand why, you need to know about something called “motion segments”.

A “motion segment” is made up of two adjacent vertebrae (bones), a disc that acts as a “shock absorber” between the two bones, and the muscles and ligaments that keep the two bones together.

However, the really important part of this “motion segment” is the nerves that exit between each of these vertebrae. Nerves allow your brain and body to communicate by passing signals through the billions of tiny nerves fibers that make up the spinal nerves. Why is that important? If either bone in a ‘motion segment’ is out of place, or turned even slightly from its proper position, pressure will be exerted on the nerve. This is commonly referred to as a “pinched” nerve, but is really a misaligned bone(s)! This minor misalignment causes a ‘short’ in your nervous (wiring) system and this can wreak havoc on your nervous system.

So what causes a bone in your spinal column to become out of place? Displacement can occur as the result of almost anything: a fall, an accident, an injury, repetitive movement (heavy lifting on the job), something as simple as staying in the same position for a long time (working at a computer all day) or sudden twists/jerks or even stress.

Each of your nerve roots is made up of millions of little fibers (like a telephone cable) that exits each side of your spinal column, above and below each of your vertebra. When a vertebra (bone) loses its normal position, even slightly, it puts pressure on the nerve roots which affects the nerve impulses (messages) that go out to different parts and organs of your body.

The symptoms of pressure on a nerve root can include pain, a burning sensation, tingling or numbness down one side of your body, perhaps in your arm or leg. You might also experience headaches, stomach or intestinal problems, sciatica (leg pain), a stiff neck, insomnia, asthma, allergies, wrist pain (carpal tunnel syndrome) or any number of illnesses’ as a result of nerve interference caused by the displaced vertebra (bone).

Chiropractors are trained to identify these areas of “displacement,” which we call subluxations. Once located, chiropractic adjustments begin the process of moving the bone back into place. This takes the pressure off the affected nerves, so that they can re-establish proper communication throughout your body, allowing your body to function at it’s best, free of interference.

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