Getting pinched nerve treatment to relieve back painIt is estimated that 80 percent of the total population experiences some kind of back pain at one time or …
Pinched nerve in the spine — what it is, its symptoms and treatments
A pinched nerve happens when the spinal cord or a nerve root has pressure placed on it. This pinching can disrupt the signals relayed between the brain and the areas of the body that the nerve runs to.
In the case of a spinal pinched nerve, some element of the spinal column has usually shifted outside its normal boundaries, leading it to come into contact with the affected nerve. Most commonly, this occurs at the point where the nerve roots exit the spinal column. Bulging or herniated discs, spinal bone spurs or thickened ligaments can put pressure on the nerve roots and cause numerous symptoms.
What symptoms are associated with pinched nerves?
When a pinched nerve occurs in the spinal column, the effects can be rather far-reaching. These nerves branch out to various areas of the body, meaning a pinched nerve in the neck, for example, can cause symptoms in a shoulder, arm and/or hand. If a nerve in the lower, or lumbar, spine has pressure placed on it, it can cause problems in the hips, buttocks, legs or feet.
Specific symptoms include:
- Pain at the site of the pressure
- Pain that travels down the pathway of the affected nerve
- Muscle weakness or numbness in any of the areas the affected nerve runs to
- Burning or tingling sensations in affected areas
How can a pinched nerve be treated?
The treatment options for a pinched nerve depend on the underlying cause of the problem. For example, a physician may recommend a different approach to treatment if a nerve is pressured by a herniated disc as opposed to a bone spur.
However, in almost all cases, conservative (nonsurgical) treatments are the first line of care, with an aim to address the symptoms rather than the underlying cause of the pinched nerve. These measures often include taking medication to help with pain and discomfort, performing certain stretches and exercises to keep the muscles that support the spine limber and strong and applying ice and/or heat at the site of the symptoms to bring down swelling or reduce pain and muscle spasms, respectively.
When is pinched nerve surgery advisable?
Every patient’s circumstances are different, but the majority find relief from their spinal pinched nerve symptoms with various conservative treatment options. However, some people require surgery to experience lasting results. This is because surgery can directly address the underlying cause of the issue (a bulging disc, for example) instead of only addressing the symptoms.
Before consenting to surgery to alleviate pressure on a pinched nerve, patients should always weigh their options and educate themselves about the potential risks and benefits associated with different surgical approaches. For example, some patients may be unaware that there are minimally invasive options in addition to traditional open back surgery. Minimally invasive surgery can reduce the amount of tissue disruption during surgery and potentially reduce the recovery time that follows.