Can A Pinched Nerve Make It Harder For You To Breathe?

It's easy to attribute the occasional neck or back ache to simply having slept in an uncomfortable position. However in some instances, such pains may be stemming from a pinched nerve, explains the Cleveland Clinic. This occurs when a nerve is compressed by surrounding tissue.

The Cleveland Clinic notes that roughly 85 out of every 100,000 American adults experience a pinched nerve annually. For some, it may be associated with factors such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or pregnancy. For others, a pinched nerve may be the result of an injury, or from engaging in repetitive motions such as typing or working on an assembly line, according to experts at the Mayo Clinic

For these individuals, the pressure inflicted on a nerve by the surrounding bones, cartilage, tendons, or muscles can lead to various symptoms including sharp or burning pain, loss of feeling in the area, tingling, numbness, and more. In addition to being physically painful, can a pinched nerve also affect our ability to breathe?

How to prevent and treat a pinched nerve

While a pinched nerve itself will not directly affect the lungs, it can make breathing more painful, writes surgeon Dr. Stefano Sinicropi via his practice's website. When breathing, the expansion of the lungs and ribs can impose additional pressure on a nearby pinched nerve. As a result, individuals may take shorter breaths to minimize lung expansion in an attempt to reduce the pain.

With adequate rest, a pinched nerve usually resolves on its own within a matter of days to a few weeks (via Cleveland Clinic). To reduce swelling, experts suggest alternating applications of heat and ice to the affected area. In addition, over-the-counter pain relievers can help alleviate any discomfort.

If your pinched nerve causes severe pain or unusual symptoms, lasts longer than a couple of days, or isn't responding to home treatment, Dignity Health suggests visiting your doctor. Cleveland Clinic notes that in some cases, a patient may be prescribed corticosteroids to decrease pain and inflammation. Rarely, surgery may be required for cases of spinal nerve compression or carpal tunnel syndrome if they prove unresponsive to other treatment methods.

To help keep pinched nerves at bay, experts at the Cleveland Clinic encourage daily stretching to strengthen muscles, particularly if you work at a computer. Taking periodic movement breaks will ensure you're not remaining in one position for too long.