Kenneth D. Erickson, D.C.
Irvine Family Health Center Chiropractic Offices
(949) 857-1888 • 14150 Culver Drive, Suite 103 • Irvine, CA
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Delicate nerve tissue is susceptible to irritation as it exits the spine or in the soft tissues that it passes through on its way to other parts of the body.
Numbness and tingling are symptoms generally associated with nerve damage or irritation. There are two major causes of nerve irritation, each requiring a different method of treatment, so a correct diagnosis of the cause of your symptoms is critical. The most common type of injury to a nerve is an impingement or “pinching” of the nerve. Nerve impingement often occurs at the spine and can be caused by being sandwiched between two spinal bones, pressed upon by a bulging disc or encroached upon by bony overgrowth.
Other than impingement, nerves can also become “stuck” to surrounding soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, fascia) usually as a result of repetitive motion injuries. This is commonly referred to as a "trapped" nerve.
When a nerve exits the spine, it can become pressed between two bones or compressed by an unhealthy disc resulting in numbness and tingling in other parts of the body. The area where you experience these symptoms is indicative of where in the spine the “pinching” occurs. Nerve irritation in the neck often leads to symptoms in the shoulders, arms or hands. Similar problems in the low back can cause numbness and tingling down the legs and into the feet.
Treatment for “Pinched” Nerves
Nerve irritation related to joint dysfunction or bone malposition is best corrected using chiropractic adjustments. By using carefully directed and controlled pressure to restore joints to a normal position and motion, the pressure placed on the nerve is quickly and painlessly reduced. This often results in immediate (sometimes dramatic) pain relief.
Nerve impingement related to disc injury often requires additional treatment methods. The McKenzie protocol and Cox Flexion/Traction are both techniques available in our office. The aim of the McKenzie protocol is to reduce nerve impingement by “reshaping” the spinal disc with sustained pressure over successive treatments. Cox Flexion/Traction uses a specialized chiropractic table that bends and elongates the spine to reduce pressure within the disc. Both techniques are capable of providing both immediate pain relief and rehabilitation to prevent future recurrences.
Pinched Nerve:: Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression with the DRX9000
Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression using the DRX9000 provides relief to Pinched Nerve sufferers by gently separating the bones of the spine. The DRX9000 can reverse all 3 major Pinched Nerve causes in the following ways:
Subluxation (“Sandwiched” Between Two Bones):
The DRX9000 gently separates the bones of the spine allowing fluid to be “pulled” into the disc. As the fluid enters the disc it will “plump up” to maintain the distance between the bones. The space between the bones is increased allowing the nerves to pass between the bones without being pinched.
Herniated Disc (Disc Bulge Pressing on the Nerve):
Non-Surgical Spinal Disc Decompression gently reduces the pressure within spinal discs by slowly and methodically separating the bones of the spine using the DRX9000. This decrease in disc pressure forms a vacuum that “sucks” the gelatinous center of the disc back into the disc. The Disc Bulge / Disc Herniation is reduced in size which removes pressure off the spinal nerves. This “sucking” vacuum also pulls much-needed oxygen and nutrients into injured and degenerated discs allowing the healing to begin.
Stenosis (Bony Overgrowth That Shrinks the Exit Canal for the Spinal Nerve):
Spinal Stenosis reduces the space available in the canal where the nerve exits the spine. This canal is called the intervertebral foramen (literally: “hole between the bones of the spine”). There are only two available options when this degenerative process occurs. The extra bony growth can be surgically removed or the “hole” can be enlarged allowing more room for the nerve. The surgical option can be quite risky due to the procedure taking place in VERY close proximity to both the spinal nerve and the spinal cord. Therefore, Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression is an excellent alternative to such procedures. The bones of the spine are gently separated allowing more space for the nerve “to breathe”. The discs of the spine will fill in with fluid allowing them to maintain the space between the bones keeping the pressure off the nerves.
The treatment motion is computer controlled to provide gentle and painless decompression of the injured spinal discs. Advanced DRX9000 decompression techniques separate slowly and cycle between brief moments of pulling and relaxing (oscillation). This reduces protective muscle spasm that contributed to the poor success rate of other “traction” techniques. The latest DRX9000 decompression technologies also incorporate angulated elongation methods to target specific discs of the spine (for example: L5/S1 at the base of the spine). This allows the treatment to rely less on brute force (separating multiple levels with high force) and more on finesse (using less decompressive force to focus on a single spinal segment) to rehabilitate individual spinal discs.
Nerves can also become irritated as they pass through muscles on their way toward their destinations. This is often referred to as a peripheral nerve entrapment. To allow smooth passage through muscle tissue that is always expanding and contracting, slippery sheaths guide the way for the nerves to pass through the muscle. They function in a capacity very similar to subway tunnels protecting trains as they are transported underground. When damage occurs to these nerves and their protective sheaths, scar tissue is laid down to repair the damage. Unfortunately, this leads to adhesions forming between the sheath and the nerve. This explains why numbness and tingling symptoms are often exacerbated by certain movements or with small, repetitive motions.
How Can a Nerve Become “Trapped” Within the Soft-Tissues?
Repetitive “rubbing” of sensitive soft-tissues or chronic contraction of a damaged muscle can lead to a cascade of progressive worsening. Both situations deprive the soft-tissue of much-needed oxygen due to the decreased “pumping” that occurs with healthy, full contraction and relaxation. This lack of oxygen triggers fibroblastic activity – the primary mechanism involved in the formation of scar tissue (fibrous tissue). Unfortunately, as more fibrous tissue is created, muscle oxygenation, flexibility and strength are further reduced. This process continues until function is degraded enough to create noticeable symptoms. In other words, repetitive motion injuries and cumulative trauma disorders could develop over moths, years or, even, decades before the first symptom is ever experienced! As the condition progresses, the “stickiness” of the soft tissues can extend into the spaces between these tissues forcing them to become “stuck” to one another. When this happens near or around nerves, it can cause a peripheral entrapment – more simply known as a soft-tissue nerve “pinch”.
Treatment for “Trapped” Nerves
When nerve tissue is trapped within or between muscles, the adhesions that cause the nerve to “stick” to the soft tissue are best removed using a muscle technique called Active Release Technique (ART). This is usually accomplished by applying specific pressure with a thumb or finger at the site of adhesion while moving the affected body part through a full and complete range of motion. Using this technique, the adhered tissue is held stationary while the nerve is pulled away and separated from the adhesion. This often creates an immediate reduction in nerve tension and, therefore, immediate (sometimes dramatic) symptom relief.
©2003 Kenneth D. Erickson, D.C., Orange County Chiropractor, Irvine Office :: Contents of this website may not be reproduced without express written permission of Dr. Erickson. Material in this website is for general information only and is not intended to replace professional medical advice.