Entrapment neuropathy is the technical term for nerve pain that is caused when a nerve is compressed in some way, often by a muscle spasm or inflammation. It also is referred to as a pinched nerve. Common forms of entrapment neuropathy are carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome, which affect nerves in the wrists and elbows, causing pain and numbness in the hands.
When a nerve is compressed, it often can cause symptoms away from the actual site of the entrapment. For example, pain in the legs and feet can result from entrapment neuropathy in the hip area or in the thighs, because nerves in these areas carry signals to the rest of the leg. Cubital tunnel syndrome involves a compressed nerve in the elbow, but common symptoms occur on the outer fingers and outer edge of the hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a compression of a nerve in the wrist, but symptoms also occur on the inner fingers as well as the wrist.
In addition to these familiar entrapment neuropathies, other types of entrapment also can occur. Similar to carpal tunnel syndrome, tarsal tunnel syndrome occurs because of entrapment neuropathy of a nerve in the ankle. Symptoms are similar to carpal tunnel syndrome but affect the feet instead of the hands. Sciatica, which causes pain and numbness through the hip, legs and lower back, also can occur as a result of entrapment neuropathy.
Treatment for entrapment neuropathy varies based on the location, cause and severity of the condition. In some cases, such as sciatica, chiropractic care can help release the pressure on the nerve by restoring proper alignment to the back and spine. Physical therapy also can help reduce pain, strengthen muscles surrounding the affected area and reduce or remove the pressure on the nerve. Some cases require surgery to remove the structural element that is pressing against the nerve.
Other factors can contribute to entrapment neuropathy, including the presence of tumors or abscesses. These masses within the body can create pressure on individual nerves or collections of nerves, causing pain and other uncomfortable symptoms. Symptoms of entrapment neuropathy can occur because of a number of different problems, so it is very important to consult a doctor regarding appropriate treatment. This is especially true in the case of sciatica, which can be traced to a wide variety of causes, including tumors, entrapment neuropathy or damage or injury to the nerve itself.