A pinched nerve in the back can occur anywhere along the spinal column and can be caused by a variety of conditions. Some of the more common causes include bulging discs, herniated discs, bone spurs and inflamed tissues, all of which can take up space in the spinal canal and compress a nerve root or the spinal cord.
When any of these conditions put abnormal pressure on a nerve root or the spinal cord, they prevent the nerve from properly transmitting electrical signals to its peripheral nerves, causing pain, tingling, weakness and numbness in the area of the body that those peripheral nerves lead to.
If a bulging disc, for example, puts pressure on nerve roots in the L3 to L5 region (located in the lumbar or lower back region), lower back pain, loss of motor control in the leg, and possible numbness in the big toe may result because these are the areas to which nerves in the lumbar region transmit signals.
One particularly well-known nerve starting in the lower back is the sciatic nerve. When any part of the large sciatic nerve becomes pinched, pain travels from the lower back to the buttocks, back of the thigh and calf, and possibly to the toes. Pinching of the sciatic nerve, which can also cause weakness in the calf muscle, is known as sciatica.
A pinched nerve in the back or a pinched nerve in the neck can be attributed to overuse, strain, extra body weight, scar tissue formation after surgery, cysts, tumors, poor posture or osteoarthritis. All of these conditions can cause vertebrae, intervertebral discs and surrounding tissues to degenerate, shift or become malformed.
If you are diagnosed with a pinched nerve in the back, initial treatment may include rest, massage, hot/cold therapy, mild exercise, anti-inflammatory or prescription medications and electrical stimulation. If these treatments are not effective, your physician may then prescribe corticosteroid injections to treat a pinched nerve in the back. All of these treatments can alleviate pinched nerve symptoms, but will not eliminate their underlying causes.
Sometimes, pain from a pinched nerve can be managed by refraining from physical activity. However, if you have chronic, debilitating symptoms, your physician may recommend traditional open back surgery. If surgery is your next step, you may want to consider the minimally invasive procedures available at Laser Spine Institute. These procedures can provide relief from pinched nerve symptoms with less pain and a shorter recovery time than traditional open spine surgery. For more information on Laser Spine Institute’s treatment options for a pinched nerve in the back, and for a free review of your MRI or CT scan, contact us today.