Pinched Nerve

Nerves are extensions from the brain and spinal cord that reach out into the body. A nerve cell located in the brain or within the spinal cord is called a central nerve. A nerve that extends from the spine into the arms or legs is called a peripheral nerve. Peripheral nerves are actually bundles of millions of nerve fibers that branch from the spinal cord and target muscles to make them move or target skin to provide feeling.

A nerve can be affected as it leaves the spine by a herniated disc or by bone spurs formed from spinal arthritis.

Symptoms

With a pinched nerve in the lower back, pain is usually felt radiating down the leg. This pain travels the length of the nerve. With a pinched nerve in the neck, pain is usually felt radiating down the arm.

Painful muscle spasms in the back often occur with pinched nerves. Sometimes, the only symptoms may be numbness and weakness in an arm or leg without any pain.


Causes and Risk Factors

Radiculopathy or a pinched nerve usually occurs when a nerve is squeezed (compressed) by the intervertebral disc, a bone spur, or by the vertebra slipping, which causes narrowing. Non-spine causes can be by overuse. Overuse, as in carpal tunnel syndrome, can cause a pinched nerve.

Treatments

Treatment will vary based on the specific causes and location of the affected root.

Treatment options include:

  • Pain-relieving drugs like Tylenol, NSAIDS, Neurontin or Lyrica
  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injections
  • Surgery

The main goal is to give the nerve root the room it needs. This is done by shrinking the swollen tissue around the nerve, by using NSAIDS or steroids. Scar tissue that has built up around the nerve from chronic swelling and tenderness may be done surgically. Compressed discs or bone spurs may also be removed through surgery.