Pinched Nerve

Pinched Nerve

Our bodies are made up of a complex network of nerves. These extend from our brains through our arms, legs, and other extremities to send messages to our muscles and skin. Nerves also extend from the spinal cord and are especially sensitive to pressure. Typically, our nerves are most vulnerable when they travel through narrow spaces in our bodies but have very little tissue for protection, such as when exiting the spine.

A pinched nerve, also known medically as a nerve compression, occurs when there is pressure placed upon a nerve. Oftentimes, this happens when an internal or external force causes the nerve to become pressed between tissues such as ligaments, bones, cartilage or tendons. The pain associated with a pinched nerve can be minor or severe and may cause cervical radiculopathy, a condition in which the pain radiates out into extremities such as the arms, hands, legs, and feet.

Pinched Nerve Image 

Even if the pain is mild, it’s always important to seek medical attention fast in order to avoid permanent nerve damage, fluid build-up, scarring, and swelling.

 

Pinched Nerve: Causes

There can be a wide variety of causes for pressure on a nerve, but some of the most common include:

  • Herniated discs - Often, a painful condition that occurs when a tear or weakness in a vertebral disc’s outer layer allows the gel-like inner layer to leak into the spinal canal. This puts pressure onto area nerves and can cause significant discomfort and pain.
  • Bone spurs - Small, sharp outgrowths of bone that can develop along the spine when minor inflammation causes cells to deposit extra bone in the area.
  • Spinal arthritis - A fairly common condition that occurs when cartilage in the joints becomes worn down and eventually disappears due to aging, wear and tear, and/or trauma. Inflammation can also occur, placing pressure on to nearby nerves.
  • Repetitive motions - These are often associated with sports, exercise, improper lifting or other heavy use of the back (such as in physical, labor-intensive jobs).
  • Holding the body in one position for a long period of time - This can happen while working, sleeping or traveling long distances.
  • Sudden and unexpected trauma and/or accident
  • Pregnancy, due to increased weight and water retention, which are both risk factors for developing pinched nerves.

The spine is an incredibly intricate structure and it can also be highly susceptible to injury, ailment and even general wear and tear. Any changes to the components of the spine – from its discs to its bones and tendons – can quickly irritate or pinch a nearby nerve, causing pain, discomfort and even affecting a patient’s daily life and activities.

 

Pinched Nerve: Symptoms

Pinched nerves have several key symptoms, including:

  • Radiating pain through the neck or lower back
  • Shooting pain through the leg or foot if the pinched nerve is located in the lower back
  • Shooting pain through the shoulder or arm if the pinched nerve is located in the neck
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tingling and pins-and-needles sensations
  • Numbness or weakness in the arms or legs, due to the pinched nerve controlling specific muscles
  • Burning or “hot and cold” sensations

Some of the areas where pinched nerves most frequently occur include:

  • The sciatic nerve, which can cause pain through the lower back and into the leg
  • The cervical spine, better known as the neck region of the back. Pinched nerves in the neck can cause radiating pain through the shoulder blade and/or arm
  • The common peroneal nerve, which is located in the lower leg and typically controls specific muscles in the calf, foot and toes

 

Pinched Nerve Non-Surgical Treatment Options

We treat each patient as an individual and thoroughly review all factors before deciding on a recommended course of treatment. This includes discussing the patient’s health history, examining imaging, such as C.T. scans, MRIs or X-rays, and learning about their unique symptoms, lifestyle, and goals.

There are many conservative and non-surgical options available to relieve a pinched nerve. We frequently implement combinations of the following, depending on the patient’s condition:

  • Rest and Physical Therapy

    Simply taking it easy on the affected area can be very effective in allowing the nerve to heal. If necessary, a splint or collar can encourage limited motion and force the affected area to rest. Sometimes, we may suggest physical therapy through specialized exercises designed to strengthen the back and alleviate pressure from a nerve.

  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications

    Over-the-counter and prescription medication can oftentimes relieve the inflammation, pain, and swelling associated with a pinched nerve.

  • Injections

    In addition to pain mapping, which allows us to pinpoint the precise location of your pinched nerve, we also feature a variety of steroid injections. These injections are designed to bathe irritated nerves in soothing medication that offers immediate pain relief. This reduces inflammation and alleviates discomfort while a more permanent solution for the pinched nerve is determined.

  • Hot and Cold Therapy

    Alternating between hot and cold therapy, such as heating pads, ice packs, moist heat, and other at-home options, can bring relief for mildly painful pinched nerves. By following our physicians’ instructions for correctly implementing hot and cold therapies, discomfort can be soothed while the pinched nerve heals itself.

  • Massage and Acupuncture

    Deep therapeutic massage by a licensed therapist can encourage blood flow and induce relaxation while gentle, targeted pressure on the nerve can help to relieve tension and pain. Additionally, acupuncture uses specialized needles on specific trigger points within the muscle and is commonly used as a conservative treatment for compressed or pinched nerves.

 

Pinched Nerve Minimally Invasive Treatment Options

Our team of neck, back and spine specialists are experts in the treatment of pinched nerves. We always recommend conservative care first, including the non-surgical treatment options listed above.

On rare occasions, minimally invasive surgery may be required for extreme cases. Our minimally invasive treatments use tiny incisions to carefully remove portions of a vertebral disc, scar tissue, bone spurs or other elements that may be pressing onto the nerve.

In the event that surgery is deemed appropriate, patients can rest assured that our advanced minimally invasive techniques mean quicker recovery times, less scarring and trauma to surrounding areas as well as rapid pain relief.


 

About Us

The first in Texas to perform micro-endoscopic laser spine surgery with an incision as small as 3 mm, Dr. Won advises multiple international spine technology companies and has helped design many groundbreaking tools for the minimally invasive spine surgery industry.

Dr. Won also innovated the Pain Mapping procedures, this diagnostic study helps to pin point the pain generator so that we can provide the least invasive spine procedures, LuMINI.

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