What is a pinched nerve?
A pinched nerve causes pain or impaired function when a nerve is under so much pressure that its ability to carry signals is hindered. Pinching or compression often affects nerve roots in the spine that control muscle movements and relay sensations of feeling throughout the body.
Beginning signs of a pinched nerve
The initial symptoms of a pinched nerve may include tingling, numbness, a burning sensation or shooting pains down the buttocks and legs, or in the neck, shoulders, arms and fingers.
Sometimes, the pains and sensations originating from a pinched nerve are distant from the point of pressure. For instance, a pinched nerve in the lower back may show pain in the calf as its only symptom. When there is nerve damage from constant pressure, pain and muscle weakness may increase. There may be a loss of reflexes, movement skills and sensation in the affected area, as well as withering (atrophy) of the affected muscles.
What are the nerves?
Nerves are extensions from the brain that branch out into the arms or legs to reach the muscles or skin. A nerve cell is microscopic in size, and a nerve fiber may run several feet in length toward its destination. A nerve that lives in the brain or within the spinal cord is called a central nerve, and nerves that leave the spine to go into the arms or legs are called peripheral nerves. These peripheral nerves are actually bundles of millions of nerve fibers that leave the spinal cord and branch out to their target muscles to make them move. These nerve fibers also go to the skin to provide feeling.
After a nerve gets pinched
If a nerve gets “pinched,” the flow up and down the inside of the nerve is reduced or blocked, and the nutrients stop flowing. Eventually, the nerve membrane starts to lose its ability to transmit its electrical impulses, and the nerve fiber may eventually die. When enough fibers stop working, the skin may feel numb, or a muscle may not contract.
Your next steps…
If you think you are showing signs of a pinched nerve, we suggest you review pinched nerve symptoms page for more detailed information.
It is important to note that you can decrease your risk factors for developing a pinched nerve through simple precautionary measures. You can either choose to avoid activities that commonly lead to a pinched nerve, or you can learn what steps to take to limit your chances of being injured. To better educate yourself, we suggest you take a look at our pinched nerve causes section.
If you’re tired of living with pain, and you have already been diagnosed with a pinched nerve in the neck or back, you should view our page devoted to the treatment of a pinched nerve and see how our minimally invasive procedures can help you find relief from your symptoms.
Although we strive to lay out information in the most convenient manner, if you have not been able to find what you are looking for on this website, you should visit our FAQ page. On this page, the surgeons at Laser Spine Institute have compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions they encounter. If you still require more information, or are curious as to how we can help you, please feel free to contact us.