Nerve Injuries- An Overview


Typically one thinks of massage therapy as discovering and relieving muscle tissue injuries in a therapeutic way. However, the challenge with many bodywork practices is correctly interpreting painful conditions, some of which are linked to nerve injuries.

In the body, nerve roots contain fibers that run through the entire length of our extremities. For example, the nerve fibers that make up our sciatic nerve in our gluteal region run into the foot. This is a pretty far distance for individually long cells to pass on information to our brain! Major nerve areas like the sciatic have a mixture of motor and sensory pathways in the body. Having these mixed nerve areas can cause difficulty among health care professionals in identifying and pinpoint certain types of nerve injuries.

Terms to Know:

Neuropathy means "damage to or disease affecting the nerves".

Peripheral within an injury means that the injury stems from the peripheral nerves, which are distant from the nerve roots and the spinal cord.

Peripheral Neurpoathy

Conditions of nerve injuries, also known as Peripheral Neuropathies, play the role in many nerve compression syndromes such as thoracic outlet and carpal tunnel syndromes. These conditions typically begin with sensory symptoms, then develop to a motor symptom (a sign of a greater degree of nerve injury because more nerve fibers are affected). If untreated, weakness or atrophy of muscles supplied by that nerve will occur.

Proximal

The closer (or proximal) the nerve compression is, the greater likelihood that the motor AND sensory nerve regions will be impacted from the injury.

Distal

The farther (or distal) the nerve compression is, the lesser likelihood that the motor AND sensory nerve regions will be impacted from the injury.

Common Symptoms:

Symptoms that one may feel from these impairments include:

  • paresthesia (tingling sensation in the hands, arms, feet, or other areas)

  • numbness

  • burning sensation

  • nerve tissue ischemia - a roadblock to blood flow

To find the area of nerve fibers affected from a single nerve root, refer to the dermatome chart (as seen below).

Massage is an effective form of treatment for these nerve injuries because it can relieve compression of nerves from local soft tissues in the body. Massage can reduce tightness of the tissues, and can regain optimal function over time through the natural healing process. A regular massage of the affected tissue area near the nerves every few weeks can reduce the painful symptoms listed above.

Lowe, W. (2017, April). Deciphering Nerve Injuries. Retrieved September 19, 2017, from https://www.abmp.com/textonlymags/article.php?article=1666

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