person with nerve pain in wrist

Pinched Nerve Symptoms

Pinched Nerve Symptoms

A pinched nerve occurs when pressure is put on the nerve or the myelin sheath (a protective layer surrounding all nerves). This pressure may be caused by a bone spur, herniated disk, or water retention. Any of these sources essentially force surrounding tissues, like bone or cartilage, to encroach on the space reserved for nerves. Pinched nerves can be uncomfortable and even painful. Here is a look at the symptoms of a pinched nerve. 

Locational Impact on Symptoms

Since there are nerves connecting every part of the body to the brain and central nervous system, pinched nerves can occur in a variety of places. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a pinched nerve in the wrist, when tissue presses on the carpal tunnel (which houses the median nerve). Sciatica refers to a compressed sciatic nerve, most often from a herniated disk. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down both legs. A pinched nerve can also commonly occur in the neck or back. For the most part, however, no matter where the issue occurs, symptoms are more or less identical: numbness, pain, and muscle interference.

Carpal Tunnel Symptoms

When the pinched nerve is located in the carpal tunnel, symptoms occur specifically in the wrists and hands. However, it is important to note that the discomfort may be felt throughout the elbows and even shoulders. Most carpal tunnel syndrome patients experience tingling or numbness in the thumb and fingers—the pinky finger is often an exception to this. In addition to feeling numb, the fingers, hands, and wrists may feel tight and painful. Dexterity may decrease, as it becomes more difficult to use the hands and fingers.

Symptoms may be especially bad upon waking, as most people sleep with their hands in fists or with their wrists flexed—which stresses the muscles and ligaments in the hand. Making a fist, picking things up, or engaging in activities that require curled fingers (even something as simple as brushing your teeth) can become difficult. The muscles may feel weak; picking up or holding things may be a struggle because of the numbness that affects the nerves in charge of creating a pinching gesture. 

Sciatica Symptoms

The pain that results from sciatica is considerably more widespread than carpal tunnel, largely because the sciatic nerve covers so much of the lower body. The pain may be located anywhere, starting in the lower back, traveling along your bottom, and going down the back of the upper and lower legs. Generally, sciatica only affects one side at a time. The pain may be a mild discomfort or a burning jolt.

Activities that stress the body, like coughing or sneezing, may increase this pain. The leg or foot may feel numb; you may notice pain and numbness at the same time in different locations. Remaining seated for extended periods of time tends to make the issue worse, just as a sedentary lifestyle makes the development of the condition more likely. If you have conditions that increase your chance of developing disorders with similar symptoms (like neuropathy) a potential issue, pay close attention to symptomatic clues.

Neck and Back Symptoms

Pinched nerves occurring elsewhere in the body, again, tend to follow a similar symptomatic pattern. The area surrounding the pinched nerve will likely be painful. They often present with a sharp pain that (depending upon location) can make it difficult to do simple movements, like turning your neck. The pain may spread beyond the exact pinpointed location of the pinching, creating more widespread discomfort. Nearby muscles may feel weak, and sensations in the area may also be lessened when the nerve is interrupted. 

Last Updated: August 26, 2016