Pinched Nerve Causes

Pinched Nerve Causes & Risk Factors

A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure (compression) is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues. The type of tissue causing the pressure can vary depending on where the pinched nerve occurs. For a pinched nerve in the back the tissue might be bone or cartilage. For example a herniated disk can often compresses a nerve root in the spine. In other instances muscle, tendons or connective tissue may cause a pinched nerve. For example carpal tunnel syndrome occurs in the hands when the median nerve is pinched by such tissues.

Common Pinched Nerve Causes

A number of conditions may cause tissue to compress a nerve, including:

  • Injury
  • Poor posture
  • Rheumatoid or wrist arthritis
  • Stress from repetitive work
  • Hobbies or sports activities
  • Obesity

This pressure causes inflammation of the nerve and disrupts the nerve’s function. If a nerve is pinched for only a short time, there’s usually no permanent damage; nerve function often returns to normal once the pressure is relieved. However, if a nerve remains pinched for a long time it can result in chronic pain and permanent nerve damage.

Pinched Nerve Risk Factors

The following factors may increase your risk of experiencing a pinched nerve:

  • Posture. Poor posture adds pressure to your spine and nerves.
  • Gender. Women are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, possibly due to having smaller carpal tunnels.
  • Bone spurs. Trauma or a condition that causes bone thickening, such as osteoarthritis, can cause bone spurs. Bone spurs can stiffen the spine as well as narrow the space where your nerves travel, pinching nerves.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. Inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis can compress nerves, especially in your joints.
  • Thyroid disease. People with thyroid disease are at higher risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Other pinched nerve causes and risk factors include:

  • Diabetes. People with diabetes are at higher risk of nerve compression.
  • Overuse. Jobs or hobbies that require repetitive hand, wrist or shoulder movements, such as assembly line work, increase your likelihood of a pinched nerve.
  • Heredity. Genetic predisposition is among the more common pinched nerve causes.
  • Obesity. Excess weight can increase pressure to nerves.
  • Pregnancy. Water and weight gain associated with pregnancy can swell nerve pathways, compressing your nerves.

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