What is a pinched nerve?

A pinched nerve is an injury to a nerve or group of nerves resulting from compression, entrapment or stretching. Numbness, tingling, burning or pain can result. In some cases, muscle weakness can also occur. Symptoms of a pinched nerve may develop gradually or can come on suddenly.

Nerve Problems Spotlight

Nerves can be compressed as they leave the spine; when they pass over bony prominences, through muscles, or under ligaments; or as a result of trauma. Sciatica and carpal tunnel syndrome are two commonly recognized syndromes associated with pinched nerves, although pinched nerves can occur in many locations.

Causes of pinched nerves include herniated (slipped) discs in the neck or spine; degenerative disc disease; stenosis (narrowing) of the spinal canal; repetitive use injuries; bone spurs or fractures; and inflammation around, or irritation of, nerves.

Treatment usually involves rest of the affected nerve. Physical therapy, splinting, over-the-counter pain medications, and steroid injections may be helpful. In some cases, surgery may be done to relieve entrapment or alleviate compression of the nerve.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for severe, debilitating pain or for trauma that results in significant pain, loss or alteration of sensation, incontinence of urine or feces, or blood in the urine.

Seek prompt medical care if you notice persistent numbness, tingling, or other sensory changes in an area; if you develop progressive weakness or notice muscle wasting in an area; or if you develop incontinence, have pain that disrupts your sleep, or symptoms that don't respond to rest or over-the-counter pain medications.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of a pinched nerve?

Symptoms of a pinched nerve depend upon the location, but typically involve alterations in sensation such a pain or numbness and may involve weakness.... Read more about pinched nervesymptoms

CAUSES

What causes a pinched nerve?

Anything that compresses, entraps or stretches a nerve or group of nerves can cause a pinched nerve. This can include pressure on a nerve from a bulging or herniated disc in the back, broken bones or bone spurs, or inflammation or swelling of nearby structures. Certain body positions can stretch nerves or put pressure on them. Cystic growths or tumors can also press on nerves.... Read more about pinched nervecauses

TREATMENTS

How is a pinched nerve treated?

Treatment of a pinched nerve often begins with rest and use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, if needed. When these actions fail to improve your symptoms, splinting, steroid injections, and physical therapy might be helpful. In some circumstances, surgery may be needed to treat nerve entrapment or compression.... Read more about pinched nervetreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves