Nerve compression syndromes can result from pressure on a peripheral nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common type. Other types include sciatica and ulnar nerve entrapment. Repetitive movements can lead to a pinched nerve and neuropathy. You may have limb weakness, numbness, pain or tingling. At-home treatments provide symptom relief.
A nerve compression syndrome can occur when there’s pressure on nerves in the peripheral nervous system. These nerves connect to parts of your body (like your hands and feet) that are farther away from the central nervous system (like your brain and spine).
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Nerve compression syndromes can affect different peripheral nerves in your upper or lower body.
Syndromes that affect your upper limbs include:
Nerve compression syndromes that affect the lower limbs include:
Nerve compression often affects nerves that travel through small openings (called tunnels or canals) in your joints. Tissue swelling or damage puts pressure on the nerve, causing symptoms.
Possible causes of nerve compression syndromes include:
People who do certain jobs or activities that require repetitive joint movements also are more at risk. This includes:
Symptoms of nerve compression syndromes tend to come on gradually. The symptoms may come and go and range from mild to severe. These symptoms may get worse when you do activities that pull or press on the nerve.
Nerve compression syndromes cause a variety of symptoms depending on which nerve it affects. You may experience:
Your healthcare provider will perform different tests during a physical exam to evaluate your symptoms. Your healthcare provider may ask you to hold onto items, pick up something or lift your foot or hand.
If an exam indicates a potential nerve problem, you may receive one or more of these diagnostic tests:
Some nerve compression syndromes improve with nonsurgical treatments, such as:
If nonsurgical treatments don’t provide adequate symptom relief, surgery can help. Depending on the cause of the nerve compression, surgery can:
If you’re at risk for nerve compression syndromes, these steps can help:
Severe nerve compression that lasts more than six weeks can cause permanent muscle loss and nerve damage. You should see your healthcare provider early about symptoms so you can start the appropriate treatment.
Many people get symptom relief through nonsurgical methods. When needed, decompression surgery to take pressure off of the nerve often helps. Physical and occupational therapy exercises can prevent nerve problems from recurring.
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Nerve compression syndrome is the result of nerve irritation or pressure. Carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist is the most common type. Nerve compression syndromes can also affect your lower limbs. You should see your healthcare provider if you experience unexplained limb numbness, pain, tingling or weakness. Your healthcare provider may recommend surgery if nonsurgical treatments don’t provide symptom relief or you have a severely compressed nerve.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/23/2021.
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