Nerve entrapment, also known as nerve compression syndrome or compression neuropathy, is a medical problem that encompasses a wide range of illnesses. In general terms, entrapment refers to pressure applied to a nerve. Some of the most well-known forms of nerve entrapment include diabetic neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome and sciatica. Causes of nerve entrapment will vary, but weight loss may be a factor for some people.
Nerve entrapment occurs due to manual pressure on a single nerve or nerve bundle. Think of a nerve as a garden house, chronic stress on the flexible tube may cause a crease that affects flow. Nerves serve as conduits that send messages to various areas of the body and are responsible for sensation, such as touch. When the surface of a nerve suffers damage, like a garden hose it will form a "crease" that affects the transmission of chemical messages.
Doctors from the Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology of Mustafa Kernal University wrote a report in 2008 for the "Journal of Brachial Plexus and Peripheral Nerve Injury" on the effect of extreme weight loss on superficial peroneal nerve entrapment. The patient suffered from anorexia nervosa and doctors felt shifts in body fat may have been a factor in the nerve problem. The report's authors, Teoman Toni Sevinç and colleagues, concluded that in cases where nerve entrapment presents, changes in subcutaneous fat from weight loss might be one possible source.
General symptoms of nerve compression include pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness to the affected area. Since this term can apply to any nerve or nerve bundle, specific symptoms will vary. For example, those with diabetes may suffer from peripheral neuropathy, a form of nerve entrapment, which affects the tips of nerve endings near the skin surface. Symptoms will be sensitivity to touch, foot ulcerations and difficulty walking. Any area of the body that experiences numbness may have nerve entrapment.
Risk factors involved with nerve compression include illness, trauma and recent, extreme weight loss or gain. Although weight loss may be a factor in this condition, weight gain is more likely to play a role. Some nerve compression comes from body fat pressing down on the surface. Sudden weight gain may add external force to the outside of the nerve and cause damage. Work environment may also be part of the nerve entrapment equation. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one form of nerve compression and may be related to typing or use of the computer. Often the surfaces of nerves have hereditary or congenital defects that may result in compression.
While weight loss may play a role in nerve entrapment, it is certainly not the most prevalent one. Other considerations include work environment, lifestyle, illness and recent trauma. Anorexia nervosa is a serious and possibly life-threatening medical condition. If you suspect you suffer from this eating disorder, it is essential that you seek medical help to avoid complications such as nerve compression. If experiencing numbness, sensitivity or tingling in any area, talk to your doctor about possible causes. Treatments for nerve entrapment will depend on the area affected, but might include changes in habits, protective devices such as a brace, or surgical repair.
- Spine Health: Sciatica and the Sciatic Nerve
- "Journal of Brachial Plexus and Peripheral Nerve Injury"; Bilateral Superficial Peroneal Nerve Entrapment Secondary to Anorexia Nervosa: A Case Report; Teoman Toni Sevinç, et al.; 2008
- MayoClinic.com: Diabetic Neuropathy: Symptoms
- MayoClinic.com: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome