Pinched nerves (radiculopathy) occur when nerves that originate from the spinal cord become pinched or damaged from compression, constriction, or stretching. Different parts of the body may be affected by radiculopathy depending on which nerve or group of nerves is affected.
Pinched nerves often do not need to be treated, and in some cases, the pinched nerves go away on their own as the back and nerves heal.
Treatment for pinched nerves, when needed, may include:
- Avoiding activities that worsen the pain
- Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications
- Prescription pain medications
- Muscle relaxants
- Injections to reduce swelling
- Injections to numb the back
- Physical therapy to stretch and strengthen surrounding muscles
- Wearing a splint or collar
- Surgery to repair the problem
What Are Symptoms of Pinched Nerves?
Symptoms of pinched nerves include:
- May occur in the area where the nerve is pinched or compressed
- May radiate out from the injured area
- “Pins and needles” sensation
- Burning sensation
People with cervical radiculopathy (originating in the neck) have these symptoms running down one or both arms.
People who have lumbosacral radiculopathy (originating in lower back), often called “sciatica,” have these symptoms in the buttocks or down the legs
What Causes Pinched Nerves?
Pinched nerves (radiculopathy) tend to stem from a problem with the back that causes a nerve to get pinched or damaged, such as:
- Herniated discs
- The discs between the vertebrae break open and bulge out, causing them to press on or irritate nearby nerves
- Bone spurs from on the vertebrae, which press on nearby nerves
- Frequently occurs with spinal stenosis
- Other medical conditions that injure the nerves near the spinal cord
Pinched nerves can also occur as the result of repetitive motions, or when nerves are compressed between tissues such as bone, ligaments, and tendons, which is a common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome.
How Are Pinched Nerves Diagnosed?
Pinched nerves (radiculopathy) are diagnosed based on a physical exam and a history of the person’s symptoms.
If nerve damage is suspected, tests may include:
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