Pinched Nerve

What is a pinched nerve?

A pinched nerve is a nerve that is being compressed, constricted, or stretched. This pressure can cause mild discomfort to severe pain. Pressure is often caused by herniated spinal discs that press on the nerves coming out of the spine in the neck or back.

The medical term is radiculopathy. When the sciatic nerve is pinched in the lower back, it is often referred to as sciatica.

Pinched Nerve

Pinched Nerve Symptoms

Pinched nerve symptoms are wide-ranging. Some people experience mild discomfort, while others have severe pain that interferes with their life. It can feel like your foot has fallen asleep or you could feel sharp pain.

Symptoms include:

  • Dull ache
  • Sharp pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling or “pins and needles”

The symptoms also depend on where the nerve is pinched. Common places include the neck and shoulders, middle back, lower back, elbows, and wrists.

Pinched Nerve Causes

A pinched nerve can be caused by several conditions. Anything that causes swelling near or around a nerve can lead to pain and discomfort.

It’s common to find them when there is a herniated, or slipped, disc in the spine. When a disc has herniated, it will frequently put pressure on the nerves that come out of the spine.

Other causes include carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist, obesity, bone spurs, or rheumatoid arthritis. Sometimes, a sudden injury can cause enough swelling or stretch a nerve enough to cause a nerve to be pinched.

Pinched Nerve Diagnosis

A pinched nerve is diagnosed by a doctor doing a thorough physical examination. Diagnostic imaging, like an x-ray, CT scan, or MRI may be necessary. Other ways to diagnose them include a nerve conduction study, an EMG, or ultrasound. These tests help determine why there is pressure on the nerve so that the best treatment plan can be created. To meet with an expert, schedule an appointment today.

Pinched Nerve Treatment

Pinched nerves can often be treated with rest, pain medications, and physical therapy. Sometimes a splint or neck collar is necessary during the healing process.

When more advanced treatment is required, you may need an injection of a corticosteroid into the affected area.

In severe cases that don’t respond to non-surgical treatment, surgery may be required. It is the last resort. If surgery is necessary, surgeons prefer minimally invasive surgery.

Pinched Nerve FAQs

What does a pinched nerve feel like?

A pinched nerve can make your hand or foot feel like it fell asleep, be a dull ache, or a sharp pain. What it feels like will vary by location.

How long does a pinched nerve last?

For mild injuries, a pinched nerve may only last a few days. Some people will experience pain and discomfort for months. When pain is not resolved with rest and over-the-counter medications in a short time, it is time to schedule a doctor’s visit.

How do I fix or treat a pinched nerve?

Resting the affected area and taking over-the-counter pain medication can help. If pain is lasting or severe, your doctor may prescribe physical therapy, prescription medications, corticosteroid injections, or even surgery as a last resort.

What can I do at home for a pinched nerve?

At home, taking over-the-counter pain medications and resting or immobilizing the affected area as much as possible can help. For mild pinched nerves, this may be all that is necessary. However, in cases of more severe pain, or if your pain doesn’t go away, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a doctor.

Quick Facts
  • When too much pressure is applied to a nerve.

  • Pressure disrupts the nerve’s function.

  • Can cause pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness.

Pinched Nerve Doctors
Shane Mangrum MD
Christopher Tomaras MD
David Tran MD
Raymond Walkup MD