What is a Pinched Nerve in the Neck or Back?
A nerve root is the initial segment of a nerve leaving the central nervous system. Without going too far into detail, the primary purpose of these nerves are to send and receive sensory information and motor functions to the skin and muscles of the body’s limbs. Spinal nerves help to tell your body how it will move, and how your brain interprets sensations such as temperature, touch, and pain. There are 31 different pairs of nerves that exit the spinal column through openings called the foramen. If a condition develops in the area and compresses or pinches one of these nerves, the damaged nerve may no longer be able to send or receive neural signals correctly, which results in the painful condition known as a pinched nerve.
How can Pinched Nerve Symptoms be Felt in other Areas of the Body
When a nerve exiting the spinal canal is pinched, nutrients and blood flow is reduced causing pain along the neural pathway. If the nerve that is responsible for providing sensory information in your lower leg is pinched, your symptoms will be felt in the lower leg rather than where the nerve root exits the spine.
What Conditions can Cause a Pinched Nerve
There are many conditions in the human body that can lead to nerve compression. The more common ones are listed below with a short summary.
- Herniated Disc
- - A herniated disc occurs when the soft inner gel like substance of a vertebral disc pushes through the tough outer shell of the disc. This may directly compress the nerve, or may cause inflammation in local tissue that will pinch it.
- Spinal Stenosis
- - Spinal stenosis is a reduction in the spaces of the spine where your nerves are located. Spinal stenosis can lead to a pinched nerve as well as compression of the spinal cord itself, this is known as myelopathy. Because the spinal cord is only found in the upper section of the spine, myelopathy can only be observed in the cervical segment of the spine. If the Stenosis pinches the sciatic nerve in the lower back, this is termed as sciatica.
- Bone Spurs
- - Bone spurs form in the back as our body’s natural way of healing and stabilizing our spine. If the bone spur grows too large, it is possible it may compress a nearby nerve leading to pinched nerve symptoms. Interestingly enough, many people are not even aware of bone spurs throughout their spine. If the bone spur is not causing pain or discomfort, there is no need to intervene.
- - Arthritis is an inflammatory disease that affects you more are you age and your joints begin to break down. This inflammation can compress surrounding nerves leading to your symptoms.
Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve in the Neck or Back
Symptoms of nerve compression may start out mild but as more time passes and the nerve becomes starved of nutrients, the symptoms will worsen.
Common Pinched Nerve Symptoms
- Sharp or radiating pain
- Tingling (pins and needles)
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle weakness the longer the more the pinched nerve progresses
Treatment for a Pinched Nerve
Treatment for a pinched nerve starts with rest, ice compresses, and anti inflammatory medicine such as Ibuprofen. Exercise and stretches can help to elevate your heart rate and increase blood flow. By getting more blood to the area, more nutrients that help you heal are pumped to the damaged area helping it heal more quickly.
Surgery for a Pinched Nerve
Depending on the underlying condition compressing the nerve, if treatment doesn’t have desired effects, surgery may be required to release the nerve impingement. Some conditions are treatable with a minimally invasive form of surgery, while other more complicated conditions may require open back surgery. Are you a candidate for our minimally invasive surgery? Click here to find out.