Nerve Irritation – Often missed and mis-diagnosed

Is it important to have our nerves assessed and treated when solving pain and injury?

Nerve root irritation, which is also known as nerve root injury, nerve root damage, pinched nerve, nerve root trauma and nerve root pain can be a significant part of many conditions and is commonly left undiagnosed.  If this condition is present and not identified this often results in long delays in recovery.  Also, if it’s not identified then often return to usual activities can result in repeated injuries e.g. repeated hamstring muscle tears or repeated neck/shoulder pain and tightness.

There are many conditions where nerve root irritation is the primary cause. Conditions where the primary cause is often mislabelled include:

  • Back or neck pain
  • Local leg or arm pain/burning/pins & needles/numbness
  • ‘Muscle tears’
  • ‘Tendonitis’

How can you find out if your nerves are a part of your pain or injury?

Nerve irritation can be diagnosed with a gentle manual assessment that Ridgway Method certified practitioners are highly skilled at performing.

How are nerve irritation conditions treated?

Nerve root irritation can be quickly resolved with skilful musculoskeletal physiotherapy treatment to the nerve root and structures around it that are the cause of the problem.  This is done by hands on manual therapy techniques to decrease irritation of the nerve and quickly restore its free movement and reduce the symptoms.  In the vast majority of cases this can be achieved within three to four sessions, in less than a week.

The average time for this condition to settle without good care is several weeks; some won’t settle without good treatment; and at the worst end of the spectrum (with loss of muscle power) surgery is normally required.

Ridgway Method Certified Practitioners successfully treat this condition on a daily basis, including the diagnosis’s causing it (such as disc bulge, ligament strains, joint strains etc.)

Nerve irritation vs full ’pinching’ of the nerve

Nerve irritation is not to be confused with full ‘ pinching’ of the nerve: this is further along the worst end of the scale.  It is known as ‘nerve root compression’ with a loss of conduction of impulses resulting in complete loss of muscle function in an arm or leg and complete loss of feeling (in the specific areas the nerve innovated in an arm of leg).  This is a rare condition, and is important to seek immediate medical care if this occurs.

Common causes of nerve irritation

Nerve irritation most commonly results from a structure close to a nerve, such as a joint, ligament and/or muscle, which has sustained accumulative strain which results in swelling and inflammation.

How does the body respond?

The nerve root is a very sensitive structure and sends strong signals to the brain to let it know when it is suffering.  The brain interprets these signals and then creates a protective response to avoid further damage to the nerve.  Everybody is different and the responses to this condition can vary.  This is another reason why this condition is tricky to identify and deal with.  The protective response is predominantly radiating pain down the arm or leg, with muscle tightness and guarding.  Sometimes the protective response is a feeling of numbness, pins and needles, tingling cramping tightness or an ache (like tooth ache).

What can I do about it?

Firstly, get a good assessment to confirm the diagnosis and then receive good treatment – be very diligent with following the advice obtained during the treatment!

Nerve root irritation is problematic to deal with because it usually doesn’t follow the normal rules of rest to help the condition resolve.  Rest without good treatment often delays recovery significantly.  Sometimes it even feels good to try and stretch the arm or leg affected or to do some light exercises.  This temporarily ‘warms up’ the condition and for this reason it doesn’t feel so bad.  Unfortunately, by doing this you are actually aggravating the condition while it is warmed up and the pain comes back worse soon after you cool down, or in some cases, the next day.  The sooner you get good treatment the sooner you can be back to these activities.

Do you think you may have a nerve problem?  Call us today 09 416 4455 or email

Amanda Baker (RMCP) Hobsonville Physiotherapy is offering 30min nerve testing/treatment consultations for $95