It is estimated that 80 percent of the total population experiences some kind of back pain at one time or another. There can be many causes for this — like a minor muscle strain to traumatic injury — but one of the most common is a pinched nerve in the spine.
Nerves become pinched, or compressed, when a disc, joint or other anatomy becomes displaced and puts pressure on the spinal cord or exiting nerve root. The resulting symptoms of pain, tingling, numbness and limited mobility can severely disrupt normal activities and interfere with your job and family life.
Finding the right pinched nerve treatment for your back pain usually begins with a visit to your primary care physician for diagnosis. Then, you can form a care plan based on your condition and individual needs.
Commonly prescribed pinched nerve treatment options
Identifying a pinched nerve as the cause of back pain usually requires imagery like an X-ray or MRI to show the location of the condition causing nerve compression. Many conditions that cause nerve compression in the spine — mainly arthritis and degenerative disc disease — are due to the natural aging process and are not reversible, so the goal of treatment is usually symptom relief.
There are conservative options that have been effective for many patients in finding meaningful back pain relief to return to a normal quality of life. Conservative methods that many physicians prescribe may include:
- Lifestyle changes like weight loss and quitting smoking
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Physical therapy
- Epidural steroid injections
- Massage therapy
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, which places electrodes along nerve pathways to relieve symptoms
When to consider surgery
Open back surgery allows a surgeon to access the spine and remove the part of spinal anatomy causing nerve compression. While this is usually effective, there are difficulties and risks that can go with surgery that cause many doctors and patients alike to consider it a last-resort treatment. An alternative to traditional open back surgery that is becoming more widespread are minimally invasive spine procedures that can be performed using smaller incisions.
These procedures are able to spare critical supporting muscles, leading to a short recovery time. Talk to your doctor about this form of pinched nerve treatment to see if it might help your condition.