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What Causes Arm or Leg Tingling or Numbness

1. The Simple Answer: A Pinched Nerve.

2. It's Complicated: Where is it Pinched?

3. More Complicated: Many Pinch Points.

Where Nerves Get Pinched

We've all heard someone say they have a pinched nerve. That's what people say when they've hurt their back, "I have a pinched nerve in my back." Or if their neck hurts, "I have a pinched nerve in my neck.

The neck and back are the most common areas people get pinched nerves. In your neck and back it's usually between the bones that are called vertebrae. In some people the disc that is found between the bones can break down and pinch the nerve.

The Common Places That Nerves Get Pinched

  1. Between Bone

  2. Between Muscles

  3. In "Tunnels"

Some tunnels are formed by grooves in bones covered by tendons or ligaments. That's what happens where your "funny bone" is on the back of your elbow.

Other tunnels are formed by grooves between bones - which happens in your spine where nerve roots come out.

Some tunnels are just holes in bones that nerves go through - like those in your skull. Other tunnels are shaped by a few bones next to each other with a ligament over the top; the most famous one is the carpal tunnel in your wrist.

Nerves Go Through Many Pinch Points - It Gets Complicated

Nerves travel a long way. They go between many bones, through and between muscles, and most go through at least one tunnel. You end up with a lot of places things can get pinched.

The key to getting rid of your pain, tingling, and numbness is to figure out all the places a nerve is getting pinched. That way we can treat ALL the places being pinched.

If we treat ALL the pinches you get all better. If not, you will still have some pain, tingling, or numbness.

That what happens when we see people that have had surgery for a pinched nerve. Where the surgery was done, the pressure on the nerve was released. But they still have pain, tingling, or numbness. It's because the nerve is still pinched, just somewhere else.

Having more than one pinch point makes the diagnosis harder. If a nerve is pinched in only one place, the pattern of pain, tingling , or numbness is specific. Like with people with carpal tunnel syndrome, their median nerve in their wrist is pinched. They get pain, tingling and numbness in their thumb, index, and middle fingers.

But is some people the median nerve can get pinched in other places and the pain pattern isn't the same. they end up with pain in other places. Their other fingers, up their arm, and sometimes in their shoulder or neck.

Nerves are Long - More Opportunity for Pinch Points

The average human are is 25 inches long, and leg - or at least inseam - is 32 inches long. I know, I checked with Google. Add another 12 inches to get from your spine to your shoulder or hip and the nerve is at least 3 feet long.

The median nerve is the nerve that is involved in carpal tunnel syndrome if it's pinched at your wrist. The nerve is also commonly pinched between the:

  1. Bones in your neck

  2. Muscles in your neck

  3. Your first rib and collar bone

  4. Muscles in front of your shoulder, and

  5. Finally in your carpal tunnel - your wrist bones

Avoid Mistakes People Make Relying on Medical Tests for Pinched Nerves

Yes, there are tests that can show if a nerve is pinched. But there are problems with the tests.

We see these results all the time. The tests show a pinched nerve, people have surgery, they still have pain, tingling, and numbness. We treat the other areas where the nerve gets pinched and they get better.

The tests don't show a pinched nerve; the surgeon says they have no idea why they have pain, tingling or numbness. We treat all the areas where the nerve get's pinches and they get better.

Also, new studies show that people that get treated without surgery do just as well as people treated with surgery. Treatment with surgery is more expensive, more time consuming, and is subject to medical and surgical complications.


Christopher DiPasquale, PhD, PT, OCS, SCS, CHT is a physical therapist at Performance Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine with offices in Hebron and Colchester, Connecticut. He is board certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties in Orthopedic Physical Therapy and Sports Physical Therapy and a Certified Hand Therapist by the Hand Therapy Certification Committee.

For more information visit or call the office: Colchester 860-537-3014 or Hebron 860-228-4883

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Very informative.

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