A pinched nerve in the spine can cause symptoms both locally and throughout the body. Some of the most common symptoms include pain, tingling and numbness — among the worst are muscle spasms caused by the involuntary contraction of muscles. This is often related to the impaired motor function that comes from a pinched nerve.
If you are experiencing painful muscle spasms from a pinched nerve that are affecting your job, family and leisure time, it’s important to seek treatment that will relieve symptoms and prevent permanent nerve damage.
Spinal pinched nerves and muscle spasms
A pinched nerve can happen wherever nerves travel in the body, but some areas are more prone than others. The spine is especially vulnerable because it is a flexible structure that supports the upper body and protects the spinal cord. The parts that make up the spine — the vertebrae, joints and discs — are subject to conditions that cause breakdown and displacement over time. Since the spine has so many tightly packed nerves running through it, degenerative conditions like herniated disc or bone spurs can narrow the spinal canal and compress a nerve.
Muscle spasms happen for many different reasons, including dehydration, muscle fatigue and nerve compression or damage. For patients with a pinched nerve in the spine, muscle spasms can be part of a range of muscle problems that occur when there is interference with normal nerve function.
In addition to sending and receiving sensory information, like pain, the nerves also control basic movement — which means they control when the muscles fire. Nerve compression can cause a muscle to contract or spasm involuntarily, leading to painful cramps.
Finding lasting pain relief
If you are experiencing muscle spasms that you suspect are related to a pinched nerve, it is important to seek immediate treatment. While the underlying causes of spinal nerve compression may not be reversible, there are effective treatment options that can relieve symptoms. After a full physical examination with diagnostic imagery helps your primary care physician reach a diagnosis, he or she may recommend treatments like the following:
- Application of heat and ice packs
- Staying hydrated
- Epidural steroid injections
- Physical therapy
Conservative options are effective for many patients, allowing them to resume normal activity and have a better quality of life. While open back surgery is a direct way to decompress a pinched nerve in the spine, there is risk of complication — most physicians and patients to only consider this procedure once other options have been exhausted.
A surgical option that offers a safer and effective outcome to traditional open back surgery is minimally invasive spine surgery. Using a small incision, surgeons access the spine without cutting or tearing muscles, which leads to a shorter and potentially easier rehabilitation period.
To make sure you are considering the full range of treatments available to you, ask your doctor about this type of procedure.