What Are Pinched Nerves?
Pinched nerves (radiculopathy) occur when nerves coming from the spinal cord get 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.
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 have these symptoms running down one or both arms.
People who have lumbosacral radiculopathy, often called “sciatica,” have these symptoms in the buttocks or down the legs
What Causes Pinched Nerves?
Pinched nerves (radiculopathy) usually occur due to a problem with the back that causes a nerve to get pinched or damaged, such as:
- Bone spurs from on the vertebrae, which press on nearby nerves
- Commonly occurs with spinal stenosis
- Herniated discs
- A condition in which the discs between the vertebrae break open and bulge out, causing them to press on or irritate nearby nerves
- 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) may be diagnosed based on a physical exam and a history of the person’s symptoms.
If nerve damage is suspected, tests may include:
What Is the Treatment for Pinched Nerves?
Pinched nerves (radiculopathy) often do not require treatment, and in some cases, the pinched nerves go away as the back and nerves heal.
When needed, treatment for pinched nerves may include:
- Avoiding activities that worsen the pain
- Over-the-counter pain medications
- Prescription pain medications
- Muscle relaxants
- Injections to numb the back
- Injections to reduce swelling
- Physical therapy to stretch and strengthen surrounding muscles
- Wearing a splint or collar
- Surgery to repair the problem
What Are Complications of Pinched Nerves?
Complications of pinched nerves include:
- Fluid accumulation which can cause swelling and pressure
- Scarring that can interfere with the nerve's function
- Chronic pain
- Muscle weakness