A pinched nerve happens when any part of the body, like an inflamed tendon or muscle, presses on a nerve. The sensation of a limb falling asleep is actually a form of temporary nerve compression and causes one of its primary symptoms: numbness.
While it’s possible to think that numbness could be a welcome relief from related symptoms of pain and tingling that come with a pinched nerve, it is actually a troubling feeling that can impair everyday activity. It can also be a sign of nerve damage, so getting treatment as quickly as possible is important to regain a normal lifestyle and prevent further damage.
Spinal pinched nerves and radiating numbness
The spine is a region prone to pinched nerve development because of the way it is constructed. The central spinal cord is protected by bones, called vertebrae, which are stacked one on top of the other, connected by joints and cushioned by rubbery discs that rest between each vertebra.
The spine also supports the weight of the upper body while still being flexible enough for basic movement. If a part of the spine gets displaced even a little, a pinched nerve can result.
Here are some of the most common causes of spinal nerve compression:
- Bone spurs from arthritis
- Herniated or bulging spinal discs
- Vertebral slippage from a stress fracture in the joints
Symptoms of a pinched nerve can be local or travel down the length of the nerve to other parts of the body. This is why numbness from a pinched nerve in the neck or back can travel to the hands or feet.
Can surgery fix a pinched nerve?
Many patients first think of back surgery when they look into treating a pinched nerve in the spine, but surgical treatment to decompress nerves is usually seen as a last resort after more conservative methods have been exhausted.
While surgery is a direct and effective method of relieving the pressure on a nerve that is causing numbness, traditional open spine surgery is a highly invasive procedure requiring a large incision and a lengthy rehabilitation period.
Surgeons can now take a minimally invasive approach to spine surgery to can decompress nerves with smaller incisions; this can offer a faster return to normal activity and a shorter recovery process compared to open neck or back surgery.
If you are exploring surgical treatment options to treat numbness from a pinched nerve, ask your doctor or specialist if they think minimally invasive spine surgery can help your situation.