A pinched nerve in the spine can lead to a number of symptoms, depending on the location of the nerve compression. For some people, a pinched nerve can mean local pain at the site of the compression; for others, symptoms can be experienced along the affected nerve, leading to the presentation of symptoms far away from the compression. Treatment of a pinched nerve in the spine is dependent on first identifying the location of the compression and then determining the cause of the nerve irritation.
The brain transmits and receives signals by way of the spinal cord and a complex infrastructure of nerves throughout the body. When the regular function of a nerve is interfered with, the body may respond with a number of symptoms, such as:
- Local pain – the most common symptom of a pinched nerve in the spine, local, chronic pain may be felt at the site of compression. This is particularly common in the lumbar spine in the lower back and cervical spine in the neck.
- Muscle weakness – sometimes a compressed nerve can lead to muscle weakness because the fatigued muscle is innervated by the pinched nerve. By interfering with the signal between the brain and the muscle, regular function is interrupted.
- Numbness and tingling – numbness and tingling is often associated with permanent nerve damage, although if it is caught in the early stages, surgical treatment may be able to provide relief. Numbness and tingling is most often felt in the fingers or toes.
- Traveling pain – also known as radiating pain, pain that travels along the pinched nerve is common – especially in the lower body (see: sciatica). Traveling pain can sometimes be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms occur far from the nerve compression.
Treatment of a pinched nerve in the spine is usually first attempted conservatively. The goal of nonsurgical treatment is to both manage pain and decompress the nerve in the long-term. This may be accomplished with a combination of medications, heat-cold therapies, low-impact exercises, and other similar treatments. If these treatments do not offer sufficient pain relief, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures and to request a free review of your MRI or CT scan.