Nerve Impingements: The overlooked cause of the numbness & tingling

If you have been experiencing the uncomfortable symptoms of your arms going to sleep, pain down the leg or numb fingers you know how irritating it can be.   The cause of these symptoms is usually presumed to be in the spine where the nerves emerge but it isn’t always the case and in fact it is quite often something all together different. 


Fascia/Connective Tissue restrictions.


Fascia is the tough fibrous material that holds our body and muscles together like the thin membranes in the wedges of an orange hold it together.  These tissues when they are contracted for long periods by the muscles adhere to themselves shortening the muscle fiber and in the process will often put pressure on a nerve causing pain and numbness.


Lets look at a couple of common examples, if one of these describe you, the solution can actually be quite rapid. 


Numbness in the arms and hands

Emerging from your spine at the neck are a group of nerves (a plexus) that pass in-between the scalene muscles in the front of the neck.  This nerve then passes under your collar bone, then beneath the pectorals muscles then into the arm itself.  On the journey of this nerve group it continues down the arm past the elbow through the wrist then finally into the hand.  At every one of these locations is the possibility of compression on that nerve group and that is where the trouble lies. 


Even though your outer fingers might be what is going numb the problem may actually be in the wrist, elbow, shoulder, or the neck and not only the spine.   While it seems fairly obvious as to how the discs and vertebrae could be pinching the nerve the other locations are a little trickier to understand but equally common and the treatment is completely different. 


You most likely have heard of carpal tunnel syndrome, that is the name given to the nerve impingement when it is happening at the wrist and affecting the hand; all it really means is that your wrist is really tight.   Surgery is a common solution for this problem but there is a proven safer, more effective and less costly solution to carpal tunnel syndrome than surgery: instead of cutting the fascia/connective tissue in surgery to release it, a trained therapist can manually stretch and release that tissue providing the same relief.


Do your arms fall asleep at night?

When the origin of the nerve impingement is around the neck region it has another fancy name- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome., which really just means you have fascia adhesions and tight scalene muscles in the neck.  Many times you will see a person rubbing their numb hand trying to relieve the symptoms while the problem is actually a nerve being compressed up in the neck.  When you lie on your side while sleeping it is easy to compress the scalenes making this condition often worse at night.   So what option is there?  Once again a trained therapist in releasing fascia adhesions can often quite quickly correct this otherwise complicated problem by releasing the scalenes and their pressure on the nerve group (brachial plexus).




Sciatica or nerve pain down the leg

One of the other most common nerve impingements I see in my practice is called Sciatica named after the sciatic nerve that is being compressed.  Sciatica is usually caused by one of two impingement sites.  Though it is usually presumed to be stemming from a bulging/compressed disc, herniation, or stenosis in the low back lumbars it is perhaps even more common for the nerve to be compressed by a muscle called piriformis which attaches from your sacrum to your femur.  This painful condition can be alleviated quickly by deep fascial work in the hip and piriformis muscle.


But even sciatica that is being caused by MRI proven disc problems can often also be corrected without needing dangerous back surgery.  How?  Think of a tall radio tower, it is supported in its’ height by cables maintaining a high tension on the tower so it doesn’t sway or move.  In a similar manner your spine is supported by strong muscles and fascia attaching all around it.  When these muscles and fascia are too tight they compress the vertebrae discs and can lead to compression issues. 


It takes very deep and intense work around the lumbars to release this incredibly tough tissue, but when done properly it can prevent surgeries in even rather extreme cases.

 Over the past 15 years, starting with my very first client, I have helped hundreds of people avoid surgeries and thousands eliminate painful nerve problems with the power of Rolfing Structural Integration, a holistic and natural deep tissue method of releasing fascia in the body.  Some chiropractors, massage therapists or physical therapists may have special training in working with the fascia and Osteopathic medical doctors do as well.  Free the fascia, free yourself!


By Joe Dunkley

Certifed Rolfer