Pinched Nerve Misdiagnosed?

by Dr. Russ Tannenbaum

Many people are misdiagnosed with a pinched nerve when, in fact, the nerve is not pinched at all. Many have car accidents, sports injuries, postural imbalances, poor sleeping habits, emotional stress, other injuries or falls, and, of course, poor posture, period. Couple that with bad eating habits, cigarette smoking, etc. and, no wonder, people do not feel well.


We humans stand upright on two legs, not on all fours like our furry friends. After age 30, our joints (spine, knees, etc.) begin to have wear and tear; it's called the aging process. If you begin to have pain in your neck with pain and/or numbness down your arms alone, chances are you are suffering from a combination of muscle weakness, muscle spasm, and some joint inflammation. You may or may not have positive x-ray findings (plain x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans), and if you do, most of the time it has little or nothing to do with your symptoms. This is what the latest medical literature and research have shown.

If you truly have a pinched nerve, you will have muscle weakness, such as dropping things due to not being able to hold on to objects with your hands. If it is your lower back that is affected, chances are you may have numbness or pain down your legs. This alone is not a pinched nerve, however your sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and can be affected by tight gluteal muscles (muscles in your buttocks) or tight hamstrings (muscles in the back of your thighs). If you have muscle weakness where you develop a foot drop, or you cannot move your legs, you then have a pinched nerve. So, if your chiropractor, orthopedic surgeon, neurologist, family physician, neurosurgeon, or any other health care professional tells you that you have a pinched nerve, ask them how they came to this conclusion, and if they cannot or will not answer your question, get another opinion.

Sometimes, you are told that something is severely wrong with you when it is not serious at all. With the proper conservative care, you can have a full recovery in four to eight weeks. The most effective treatment for neck pain with or without arm pain or numbness, lower back pain with or without leg pain or numbness, is one or a combination of conservative treatments such as physical therapy modalities (heat, ice, electrical muscle stimulation, ultrasound, traction, etc.), massage, exercise, stretching, yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic, stress reduction, postural correction, proper sleep instruction, proper eating habits, proper pillow and bedding selection, proper work station positioning, and lifting instruction if applicable.

If after trying some or all of these things is ineffective, then short term use of medicines given by your medical physician may help (short term meaning three to four weeks). If medicines fail, then counseling by a social worker or psychologist should be considered. A lot of people suffer from chronic painful conditions which may be buried deep down in the brain. If this is so, all the previously mentioned treatments will not be effective. This is also noted in some of the latest medical studies.

Dr. Russ Tannenbaum has been using chiropractic, physical therapy, acupuncture, and nutritional counseling for over 30 years. More information can be found at See ad page 54.

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