What is a nerve injury?
Nerves carry messages between the body and the brain. Motor nerves carry messages from the brain to tell the muscles to move. Sensory nerves carry messages which signal the body to feel sensation such as pain, pressure and temperature.
A nerve can be injured, irritated, inflamed or compressed and the symptoms that result depend upon where the nerve was affected. If the motor part of the nerve is affected you may experience weakness or difficulty moving your muscles and limbs. If the sensory part of the nerve is affected you may experience pain, numbness, tingling, or burning.
Nerve injuries can be caused by trauma or the result of normal age related processes in the body such as spinal degeneration and stenosis. Nerve injuries may also be the result of dysfunction of the muscles (muscles not working right) or neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis.
Diagnosis and Examination
History and physical exam by a qualified musculoskeletal expert is the first step. X-ray or MRI scanning may be required.
Nerves regenerate (repair itself) at a slow rate and therefore take a very long time to heal. Depending on the type of nerve injury, your physician may want to let the nerve rest during this period or may want you to participate in physical therapy. Over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or corticosteroids may also be helpful to decrease pain if the nerve is irritated or inflamed.
If the nerve injury is being caused by compression or pinching of the nerve, the physician may want to perform a decompressive surgery to give the nerve more space and allow it to regenerate and heal. Once surgery has successfully decompressed the nerve, physical therapy may be recommended to help re-educate the nerve so that it can properly move your muscles again.