Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis and treatment for spinal nerve compression
In 2015 Professional outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis joined the list of athletes who have had to miss time because of a pinched nerve in the neck or back. Frustratingly, pinched nerves are extremely common, especially among athletes who participate in sports that require repeated stress on the spine, such as baseball.
Adding to this difficulty for Nieuwenhuis was the challenge of managing a pinched nerve in the middle of a playoff race. Despite any eagerness to help his team, it was critical for him to get needed rest. This is because many of the strenuous and repetitive motions performed by players — such as the bending and twisting required to hit, throw and catch a ball — can worsen the condition of the spine.
The connection between baseball and a pinched nerve in the spine
In young active people, the presence of a pinched nerve in the spine can usually be traced to an injury incurred as part of physical activity. Reports indicate that Nieuwenhuis is nursing nerve compression in his upper back. This can often be the result of the physical toll that 162 regular season baseball games, a full slate of spring training games and strenuous off-season training can take on the body. Something as simple as an overly aggressive swing of a baseball bat can injure the spinal components, potentially causing a pinched nerve.
When it comes to treatment, one advantage that Nieuwenhuis has is a professional staff of trainers who can help manage his symptoms with a course of conservative, nonsurgical methods. These include:
- Low-impact exercise
- A break from baseball activities while on the disabled list
- Hot/cold compresses
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories
- Spinal injections
- Therapeutic massage
- Physical therapy
Patients diagnosed with a pinched nerve in the spine by their family doctor will often be recommended the same types of treatments.
If pinched nerve surgery becomes an option
In many cases, symptoms related to a pinched nerve in the spine can be successfully managed through a course of conservative treatment options. However, spine surgery to take pressure off of an affected nerve may be recommended if symptoms persist, or worsen, over a period of weeks or months.
At Laser Spine Institute, we specialize in minimally invasive spine surgery that is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures.^ Our highly skilled surgeons use muscle-sparing techniques that allow for an outpatient procedure and a streamlined experience for our patients.