Nerves run throughout the body sending messages to the spinal cord and the brain. If a nerve is compressed, becomes inflamed and is unable to function properly, it is called a pinched nerve. The swelling and inflammation causes the pinched nerve to sends signals of pain up and down the path of the nerve. Typical pinched nerve symptoms include localized pain, radiating pain, numbness, tingling, muscle weakness and muscle spasms.

What are pinched nerve causes?

While a pinched nerve is ultimately caused by excess pressure on a nerve, the underlying cause of a pinched nerve can vary, including any of the following:

  • Repetitive motion
  • Holding your body in one position for a long period of time
  • Pressure from a nearby ligament, bone or tendon
  • Bulging or herniated disc
  • Injury
  • Arthritis
  • Sports activities or hobbies

If a nerve is pinched for a short period of time symptoms usually go away within a few days and there is no long-term or permanent damage. If pressure continues and the source of the pinched nerve is not removed, a pinched nerve can cause chronic pain, permanent nerve damage and permanent muscle damage.

Pinched nerve treatment

If you think that you have a pinched nerve you can try different at-home treatment options for a few days to see if symptoms resolve. Over-the-counter pain medication, heat and ice therapy, massage and rest can all help to relieve symptoms of a pinched nerve and allow your body to heal naturally.

If symptoms persist after a few days, schedule an appointment with your physician. If your physician diagnoses you with a pinched nerve, he or she will recommend a conservative treatment plan that may include a combination of medication, physical therapy, exercise, stretching, therapeutic massage or chiropractic care. For most people with a pinched nerve, conservative treatment will resolve symptoms and allow them to return to everyday activities. In some cases though, a pinched nerve may require surgical intervention to resolve pain and avoid permanent nerve and muscle damage along with chronic pain.