Nerve Root Irritation & Treatment

Untreated Nerve Irritation can be the most significant reason for slow recovery from pain and injury.

What is nerve root irritation?

Nerve root irritation occurs most commonly when a structure next to the nerve becomes dysfunctional (e.g. swollen, inflamed and/or spasmed) as a result of protective guarding. This often occurs at the point where the nerves roots first exit your spine: at the neck for the arms, and at the lower back for the legs.

When nerve irritation is not tested and fixed, it can be the most significant reason for slow recovery from pain and injury and for recurring pain and injury.

What does nerve irritation feel like?

Commonly, nerve irritation can cause symptoms such as:

  • Radiating pain down the arm or the leg
  • Muscle guarding, spasm, or cramping
  • Numbness, and Pins & needles
  • Aches that do not ease with pain medication
  • Difficulty finding a comfortable, pain-free position
  • Latent pain/tightness in response to stretching, posture, or activity, and
  • No pain, but a tightness that does not loosen up (e.g. in the neck, back, hamstrings, etc.)

What is the solution?

We know that nerves are the most sensitive parts of the body, and that when nerves are dysfunctional they are a priority to be fixed. We don’t want any clients to have nerve-gliding dysfunctions slowing their recovery or causing their condition to recur.

Your Physiotherapist will perform neural dynamic testing (NDT); they will check both arms, legs and your neck. Your physiotherapist will ask you to feel how well you are testing. If your nerve tests indicate that you have nerve irritation your Physiotherapist will treat this first.

Treatment to any nerve irritation requires a gentle approach. Unfortunately conventional exercises that you might use to release a tight muscle or joint (e.g. stretches) are not effective at treating nerve root irritation – in fact, in most cases this can lead to the irritation getting worse.

At Central Physio & Health your Physiotherapist can help you resolve the nerve irritation anywhere in the body by using specialised hands-on techniques in session. The best course of action once you leave the clinic is to prevent re-aggravation of the nerves through activity limitation and having minimal delay between further sessions. It is recommended that you resolve the nerve irritation quickly, over 2-4 sessions in a period of 1 week. You should only need to limit your regular activities in the early stages of recovery.

In severe cases, prescribed medication may be helpful. If nerve irritation does not resolve quickly with the hands-on techniques, your Physiotherapist will help you find an alternate solutions to resolve it.

Please note this information is general and individuals vary, so it is very important you are assessed and get good advice from your Physiotherapist about how this condition might relate to you.

What if I have nerve irritation and it is not treated?

What is not commonly known is that nerve irritation can be a significant contributing factor to any musculoskeletal or sports pain, stiffness, or injury, with or without the symptoms above.

Each person’s experience of symptoms will often be different from case to case. Consequences of untreated nerve root irritation include:

  • Slower healing and recovery
  • Treatments applied do not hold well
  • Smaller improvements or none at all, and
  • High chance of injury recurrence

These are the main reasons why our Physiotherapists always look to assess and treat nerve root irritation first.


What can I do to get the best from my nerve treatment?

For most cases, until the nerve irritation is fixed, the following rules apply:

  • NO stretching
  • NO exercise, or limited exercise as guided by Physiotherapist
  • DO NOT sit for longer than necessary
  • DO NOT use the arm or leg in a stretched out position

Example: No feet-up while sitting, no striding out with walking, no reaching behind to the back seat, no carrying in that arm or over that shoulder

  • DO NOT prop your head up with pillows to read/use a computer while lying on your back (it is better to be lying on your side to read or having the laptop up high enough on cushions so you don’t have to prop up your head)
  • For the times you have to sit, ensure you use the best possible ergonomic position, sit in a firm chair (like a dining chair) and no sitting on couches
  • For the times you have to drive, ensure the seat is as close to the pedals as practical and that your elbows are bent as you drive. Where possible get someone to drive for you, especially if you are having troubles using the stick or pedals
  • When you walk, take small steps and do your best to avoid limping

After your nerve root irritation is fixed, your Physiotherapist can show you how to prevent recurrence; in most cases this will require some changes to postural habits or improvement of technique during certain activities.

To speak to our Physiotherapist Wade who specialises in treating nerve irritation with these specialised hands-on techniques or book an appointment with Wade, please call: 07 5679 3664 or book online through our webpage.

Physiotherapy treatments available to you

Thorough explanation of your diagnosis and your treatment plan

Joint mobilisation to reduce pain and stiffness

Nerve gliding techniques to treat nerve pain and irritation

Massage and release of tight muscles

Postural assessments and corrective exercises

Core stability programs

Individualised exercise & gym programs

Strong back & core, or strong shoulders classes

KLT functional strength training

Sports specific rehabilitation for your chosen sport

Workcover injuries ~ return to work clinic

Hypermobility clinic for hypermobile clients

Occupational Physio, including worksite assessments and functional capacity evaluations

Workplace & home assessments

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