Pinched Nerve – Meaning, Causes and Treatment

Pinched Nerve – Meaning, Causes and Treatment

The term pinched nerve refers to compression of a nerve, usually by soft tissue, bone, or a herniated disc. The affected nerves may be peripheral (nerves that branch out of the spinal cord and spread throughout the body), or nerves that are part of the central nervous system.

The compression of a spinal nerve root due to a herniated disc is one of the most common examples of a pinched nerve.

A pinched nerve is also referred to as nerve compression, nerve impingement, nerve root encroachment, radiculopathy and/or sciatica. However, all these terms don’t mean the same thing.

Nerve impingement, or nerve entrapment, indicates that one single nerve is directly compressed. This occurs in the peripheral nerves that have branched out from the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots.

Nerve root encroachment refers to the crowding of the space in and around the spinal column through which nerves pass. This crowding could be the result of spinal stenosis, herniated disc or other things, like injury, repetitive movement, arthritis and/or poor posture habits.

Radiculopathy refers to the pain and other symptoms that result when a spinal nerve root comes into contact with a disc, bone spur or other spinal structure that does not belong to that area. Symptoms of radiculopathy typically radiate down just one extremity. If the condition affects the cervical spine, pain radiates from the neck to one of the arms; if the location of the compressed nerve root is in the lumbar spine, the pain radiates down one of the legs. Sciatica refers to the pain and other symptoms that go down your leg when the sciatic nerve is affected.

Pinched Nerve Symptoms

Symptoms of a pinched nerve include –

  • pain
  • sensations, such as tingling
  • weakness
  • numbness
  • dull ache
  • pins and needles

The type and severity of symptoms varies according to the underlying cause, and the location of the nerve root.

Pinched Nerve Treatment

If treated early, the pressure on the nerve can be relieved and the nerve’s functioning will likely be restored.

Pinched nerves can be treated with –

  • anti-inflammatory pain medications
  • spinal injections
  • nerve blocks
  • radiofrequency ablation
  • physical therapy and exercises
  • wearing a collar in the case the pinched nerve lies in the neck
  • improving posture

If you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of a pinched nerve or if you have been suffering from chronic neck or back pain that radiates down an extremity, see a pain doctor right away. Pain management doctors have received special trained in diagnosing and treating all types of acute and chronic pain.