Symptoms and Signs of Pinched Nerve (Nerve Entrapment or Nerve Compression)

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Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2022

Doctor's Notes on Pinched Nerve (Nerve Entrapment or Nerve Compression)

A pinched nerve is a nerve cell part that is compressed to the point of altering its ability to carry information or signals. The symptoms of a pinched nerve depend on what nerve is affected. For example, a pinched nerve in the neck can cause neck pain and stiffness or even symptoms of pain, weakness, tingling, and/or numbness that go down the arm. However, the most common symptoms of a pinched nerve are pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness of the muscles along the path of the pinched nerve. In addition, a pinched nerve may feel like a body part has fallen asleep and become numb and relatively not responsive to your attempts to move it.

A pinched nerve is caused when the nerve is damaged or injured by direct pressure or compression. There are many situations that can cause nerve compression or put pressure on the nerve. Examples include herniated discs, arthritis, bone spurs, trauma, tumors, narrowing of the spinal canal, bruising, and/or swelling. Reducing the nerve compression may reverse or stop the signs and symptoms in some people.

What Are the Treatments for a Pinched Nerve?

The most frequently recommended treatment for a pinched nerve is rest for the affected area and to stop any activity that may cause it. Other treatments include the following:

  • Splints or braces to immobilize the area
  • Physical therapy to relieve pressure on the nerve
  • Medications like ibuprofen, naproxen, and other anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Injections with corticosteroids
  • Surgery: types depend on the pinched nerve location (for example, bone spur removal, carpal ligament release, herniated disc nerve decompression, or removal of a tumor pressing on a nerve)

Consult with your doctor to determine the best treatments for your pinched nerve.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.