What is a Pinched Nerve ? Part 3

Spinal Joint Fixations, Subluxation, and Pinched Nerves

We have been discussing the question of “What is a Pinched Nerve?” and two main causes of pinched nerves have been presented, those associated with disc bulge and herniation, and those caused by spinal stenosis.

Another source of a feeling of a pinching pain sometimes with a shooting pain is when a spinal joint becomes restricted in its normal motion.

Chiropractors are highly trained in a technique called spinal motion palpation which identifies areas of restriction in the joints of the spine. Two vertebrae in the spine, the disc between them, and all the muscles, ligaments, nerves and blood vessels associated with the vertebra, are considered a motion unit in chiropractic diagnosis.

The purpose of motion palpation is to evaluate the motion of a motor unit to see if there are any restrictions in the normal motions of the joint. Muscles depend on a type of motion in the joint, called end-play, which allows them to function properly.

If a spinal joint is restricted, there is a loss of end-play and a muscle pulls or tugs against the restricted spinal joint. As we go through our normal activities and move our spines, this constant tugging against the restricted joint causes inflammation and pain. Sometimes the body tries to protect this area of injury by causing further restrictions in motion.

When we aggravate this zone of inflammation and restriction it is not uncommon to feel a pinching sensation that you might associate with a pinched nerve.

Unlike a true pinched nerve which can cause arm or leg pain, a fixated spinal joint does not cause radicular pain and there are no indications of injury to a nerve. But there can be pain which radiates out from a region.

Historically, chiropractors felt that when a spinal joint was restricted or out of place, there would be a compression on a nerve was compromising nerve flow, which could then be associated with disorders to organs supplied by the compressed nerve. Modern chiropractic has long abandoned this idea of a pinched nerve especially in the simple fashion that it was originally conceived.

Further research will be needed to see if restricted motion and other disturbances at the spine can effect general health and be treated with spinal manipulation, but the idea of a pinched nerve from a subluxation affecting nerve flow is not supportable scientifically.

One other common area where there is a pinching sensation occurs when there is restriction in rib motion, commonly referred to as a rib out of place. As in a spinal joint restriction, the rib has lost its normal motion as it attaches into the spinal joint. The result is inflammation and pain and a sharp pinching or catching sensation usually aggravated with twisting motions and deep breathing.

As we can see, the concept of a pinched nerve is not as simple as it seems. When there is a painful pinching sensation, or you are told there is a pinched nerve, it is important to look closely and to see exactly what the body is trying to tell us, and to initiate a treatment plan that will fix the problem and relieve the pain.

(Dr. Arn Strasser is a chiropractor who practices in Portland, Oregon. For more information and appointment questions, please call 503.287.2800.)

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