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Pinched Nerve

A pinched nerve in the spine occurs when soft or hard tissue in your spine puts abnormal pressure on a nearby nerve. A pinched nerve occurs when disc material is displaced and intrudes on a nerve or nerve root. A number of underlying conditions can cause this to happen, and the pain associated with a pinched nerve can range from the mild to the severe. The condition may also be called “impinged” or “compressed” nerves, and the pain associated with a pinched nerve is called radiculopathy or, when the nerve involve is the sciatic nerve, the pain is referred to as sciatica.

Causes
There are many causes of pinched nerves. Repetitive stress and load-bearing, as well as one-time injuries, are common causes. Obesity, and pregnancy have also been shown to cause pinched nerves. The condition may also result from an underlying primary condition like arthritis, diabetes, and bone spurs.

Additional common Pinched Nerve causes include:

  • Age-related wear and tear, which can lead to Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Back or neck strain due to repetitive physical activity, poor posture, imbalances in the musculature, or heavy lifting
  • Direct physical injury such as a car accident or fall
  • Genetics, whether or not the symptoms appeared in your parents

Symptoms
The symptoms of a pinched nerve depend on two basic factors: the location or type of the damaged nerve and the amount of pressure placed on that nerve. Common symptoms include:

Common symptoms of Pinched Nerve include:

  • In the lumbar spine: pain, numbness, tingling, burning, and weakness in the lower back, buttocks, legs, and feet. If impingement affects one of the roots of your sciatic nerve, you can develop sciatica, which is characterized by localized or radiating pain, numbness, or other uncomfortable sensations in the lower body
  • In the cervical spine: pain, numbness, tingling, burning, and weakness in the neck, arms, hands, and sometimes in the head
  • In the thoracic spine (less common): pain, tingling, or numbness in the upper or mid back, radiating through the stomach or chest, which patients often confuse for cardiovascular problems

Prior to having a surgical procedure to treat your pinched nerve, conservative measures such as physical therapy, chiropractic, and steroid injections should be attempted. If these measures do not meaningfully relieve your pain, a North American Spine procedure could be a better option to provide long-term relief.

Treatment
North American Spine partner physicians have the broadest range of minimally invasive solutions for your back or neck pain. Depending on the location and severity of your pain, your treatment will fall into one of the following categories:

  • Decompression: Minimally invasive decompression surgery aims to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves. This pressure can be caused by many conditions. Using a surgical laser, if necessary, soft tissue will be removed and pressure on nerves will be relieved. For more on decompression, see Decompression.
  • Stabilization/Fusion: Minimally invasive stabilization/fusion surgery aims to restore spinal stability lost to collapsed discs. Diseased material is removed and stability is regained by fusing vertebrae or replacing diseased material with specialized hardware. For more on stabilization, see Stablization
  • Injections: Injections aim to reduce inflammation, block pain, and/or aid in the regeneration of healthy nerve passages. These procedures often are not permanent solutions, but they may be repeated when pain returns. They are extremely quick procedures with virtually no recovery time.
  • Other Procedures: North American Spine partner physicians may suggest other types of procedures, including the placement of a Spinal Cord Stimulator, an implanted device that blocks the pain signals created by a variety of conditions. For more on our other procedures, see Other Procedures.

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