Why do Nerve Injuries Happen?
In the last article, we covered the importance and function of nerves in our body. In this article, we will explain why nerve injuries occur and what can be done about them. The severity of nerve injuries can range from minor irritation to a severe loss in function of the nerve. Nerve irritation happens when there is indirect trauma to the nerve such as pressure or stretching of the nerve. It can also occur due to direct trauma such as a cut to the nerve. These can happen due to the impact of accidents, falls, or sports injuries.
What happens when nerve injuries occur?
In the previous article [Nerves: What Are They and Do We Really Need Them?], we mentioned that when a nerve is irritated, it is unable to carry signals as efficiently. This could result in a blockage of communication between the brain and the nerve. Different symptoms are associated with the 3 types of nerves. For instance, if a motor nerve is irritated, it tends to have an impact on muscular control and movement. Whereas if a sensory nerve is irritated, it affects the senses such as feeling pain or numbness in the affected area.
3 Common Types of Nerve Injuries
You may be thinking – what does physiotherapy have to do with nerve injuries? Truth is – we do see our fair share of nerve injury cases in our clinic and here are the 3 most common type of nerve injuries that we see at Core Concepts.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a nerve injury that affects the median nerve. The median nerve runs from the neck down to your arms, wrist, hands, and fingers. It controls the muscles in our forearm and hands and controls hand movements. The median nerve runs through the carpal tunnel, located in the wrist to the hand and fingers. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the median nerve gets compressed by the muscle and tissue surrounding it. As the carpal tunnel is a tight space, when muscle or tissue swells up, it takes up space in the carpal tunnel, placing pressure on the median nerve.
Sciatica affects sciatic nerve which travels down the spine through the lower back, hips, and down to the legs. It occurs when there is a compression of the sciatic nerve in the spine, possibly caused by a bone spur or herniated disc. The symptoms of sciatica usually involve radiating pain that travels along the path of the sciatic nerve. The level of pain experienced by each individual could vary from mild pain or severe shooting pain that makes it impossible to walk comfortably.
A stroke affects the brain – which is part of the central nervous system. As a result of the stroke, patients may experience nerve injuries such as loss of movement, changes in sensation, and muscle weakness.
How can physiotherapy help?
There are two main ways that physiotherapists can help when it comes to dealing with nerve pain and injuries.
Reducing the compression
The first way is to reduce the compression on the affected nerve so as to treat the root cause of the problem. For problems caused by pressure on the nerve such as sciatica and carpal tunnel syndrome, your physiotherapist will work on increasing the space in the affected area and reducing the pressure on the nerve. This can be done via manual therapy techniques such as joint mobilization or exercise therapy like nerve glides that can help the nerves to move a little smoother.
The second aim of physiotherapy is to help clients gain back their mobility and muscle control. For post-stroke clients who may be experiencing loss of motor skills or muscle control, we help them to regain their mobility by retraining their muscles step by step. We break down simple day to day movements such as getting up from a chair and slowly train the muscles to relearn this movement again.
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