A “pinched nerve” and a pulled muscle in the back share many similarities in their signs and symptoms. In order to know with 100% certainty that you have a nerve impingement along the spine, you need to have imaging performed, such as an MRI. However, there are some clinical signs that can help your chiropractor, primary care physician, or physical therapist determine with confidence that you are experiencing either nerve impingement or a muscle strain (pulled muscle). If you are experiencing neck pain or low back pain, it is important to see your health care professional for a diagnosis. This article is merely to help educate you on the two different forms of pain most commonly seen by chiropractors.
Muscle strains are a common cause for pain in the neck, mid back, and low back. A strain can occur for a number of different reasons, not all of which have to be severe trauma or a sporting accident. I have had patients come to the office here in Rochester for simply turning their head too quickly and feeling a sharp pain. A muscle strain is when the muscle and tendon that work in conjunction to move the joints of the neck become damaged. Typically, you will experience sudden sharp pain in a specific area. Patients can usually point to exactly where the pain is coming from. Once the initial sharp pain or acute phase has dissipated, patients will report aching pain that hurts with movement. Pain from a strained muscle will be most severe 24-48 hours after the initial injury. With mild to moderate muscle strains you will continuously improve each day, with the pain becoming less severe with movement.
Nerve impingement can occur for a number of different reasons, including: bone spurring, severe arthritis, disc bulges, and muscular entrapment. Most of these nerve injuries occur from slow degeneration over time, however disc bulges can be acute. Moderate nerve impingement may have many of the same signs discussed above with regards to a muscle strain. More times than not, there is an initial moment that can be remembered as the onset for pain. For example: bending over to tie your shoe, or lifting something heavy. Slow degeneration can also predispose patients to injury from something as simple as sitting too long at work. With nerve impingement, there are some signs that chiropractors will ask for. These include: deep, dull achy pain that cannot be pinpointed, numbness and tingling into the arms or legs, sharp shooting pain that moves into either the arms or legs, and occasionally in severe cases weakness in the muscles of the arms or legs. Nerves can be described as the electrical circuit of the body. They begin in the spinal cord and branch out into our chest, arms, and legs. They are responsible for helping the brain feel sensations and move. When the signal is being blocked due to compression by either bones or a disc bulge, you will then have disruption in these sensations. Hence the tingling, numbness, and in severe cases, muscle weakness.
Although these conditions are different, they are both responsible for causing neck and back pain. Most cases can be treated conservatively by a chiropractor or a physical therapist, and do not require surgery. If you are experiencing such issues it is always wise to see a health care professional for a proper diagnosis and course of treatment.
If you are looking for a chiropractor in Rochester, NY contact us with questions or concerns at 585-678-1153.