If you’ve been diagnosed with a pinched nerve in the spine, or think your pain and other symptoms might be related to one, it’s understandable to wonder how long the healing time is. Determining how long a pinched nerve can last depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the underlying cause and the overall health of a given patient. Depending on these circumstances, the symptoms may only last a matter of weeks or go on for years.
To get a better understanding of how long a pinched nerve can last, it may be helpful to understand the causes of spinal nerve compression. This knowledge can give you a better idea of what to expect from your treatment process with the best chance of getting you back to a full and healthy life.
Causes of pinched nerves
A pinched nerve in the spine happens when a displaced part of the spinal anatomy, such as a bulging disc or an arthritic bone spur, puts pressure on the central spinal cord or an exiting nerve root. In many cases, this is related to the natural aging process, but it can also be due to sudden injury or repetitive motion. Lifestyle factors can also affect the length and severity of a pinched nerve in the spine, including:
- Body mass
- Alcohol consumption
- Tobacco usage
The length of time that a pinched nerve can last is different for every patient. Some minor spinal disc issues can improve over the course of weeks or months with the right treatment, while a pinched nerve from a more chronic, age-related spine condition may not be able to get better with time.
Treating pinched nerves
In most cases, physicians will first prescribe a course of conservative treatment upon diagnosing a pinched spinal nerve. Many patients find symptom relief through rest, hot and cold compression, light exercise and over-the-counter pain medication. Surgery is usually seen as a last resort for treating a pinched nerve because traditional open spine surgery is an invasive process, requiring large incisions for the surgeon to access the spine and remove the source of nerve pressure.
If you are considering surgery because of persistent and chronic pinched nerve pain, but are concerned about the risks that come along with traditional open spine surgery, you should be aware of the full range of surgical options. Minimally invasive spine surgery is an approach that takes advantage of innovative medical technology to decompress a pinched nerve with a smaller incision than traditional spine procedures. This results in procedures that can be performed on an outpatient basis with less scarring and shorter rehabilitation periods.
Talk to your doctor or spine specialists about minimally invasive procedures to see if they might be the best option for you.