There are many locations along the distribution of a nerve where it can get become irritated. If it is near the spine, it is often due to a herniated disc and is called a radiculopathy. If it happens somewhere else within the extremities, it is called a peripheral neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome being the most common form.
Because the pain from a pinched nerve is usually inflammatory based, anti-inflammatory medication is frequently prescribed. Although this can help with the pain, it does very little in the way of getting to the root of the mechanical issue. There are several approaches that can be beneficial when dealing with pinched nerves. Because the mechanics involved is different for each of these, it is important to find a spine specialist who is knowledgeable on these various options.
Spinal traction, also called spinal decompression can be very therapeutic if the nerve is being compressed at the spine. This is the case with many types of disc bulges and degenerative disc disease. This decompression takes pressure off of the nerve, relieving pain and allowing circulation so that it can heal.
Certain extension based stretches such as McKenzie extension, can be very relieving for minor disc bulges. Many disc bulges are the result of being overly flexed for long periods of time E.g. sitting and bending. If done correctly and they’re not aggravating, extension based therapy can help lessen the stresses on the disc.
Nerve mobilizations (Neurodynamics) work remarkably well when there are restrictions in tissues surrounding a nerve. This is the case with many types of pinched nerves from the spine and peripheral neuropathies. The idea is to lengthen and stretch the nerve from one end and give slack from the other end. Then the process is repeated in the other direction, lengthening and giving slack the opposite way. This process is repeated about 4-5 times. Over time, the nerve becomes more mobile within its tract.
Hands on therapies such as myofascial release and spinal manipulation can definitely be beneficial when dealing with pinched nerves as well. However, they should be used sparingly and only in key areas. As mentioned earlier, there is usually inflammation surrounding a pinched nerve. Being overly aggressive at the actual site of pain can often be irritating to those tissues. Instead, it is best to use these techniques in associated restricted areas and to avoid painful spots.