How is a pinched nerve diagnosis made?

A pinched nerve diagnosis is often made in conjunction with a degenerative spine disease diagnosis. Degenerative spine conditions are conditions that occur due to age and general wear and tear of the spine. These conditions usually refer to the spine losing stability and components of the spine, either disc or vertebra, moving out of alignment and pinching a nerve in the spinal canal. This is why a pinched nerve is often associated with a degenerative spine condition, such as a herniated disc, bulging disc, spondylolisthesis, spinal arthritis, or degenerative disc disease, among others.

Typically, a pinched nerve will present itself through chronic pain at the location of the nerve (usually the neck or lower back) and radiating pain into the extremities. For example, if the pinched nerve is located in the lower back, a patient may feel pain in the lower back, as well as pain radiating down the buttock/hip area and into the leg and foot. If you are experiencing this type of pain, you should consult your physician to determine the cause. There may be some tests your physician requires in order to accurately diagnose the cause of your pinched nerve.

Questions and answers

A pinched nerve diagnosis often begins with a discussion between you and your physician of your symptoms and medical history. You can expect questions such as:

  • Can you describe your symptoms as specifically as possible?
  • How long have you experienced these symptoms?
  • Are there any activities that increase your level of discomfort?
  • Are there any activities or techniques that alleviate your pain?
  • Have any members of your family been diagnosed with a spinal condition?
  • Have you recently experienced any trauma to the neck or back?
  • And others

Medical imaging

In most cases, a definitive pinched nerve diagnosis cannot be made without the assistance of medical imaging. Your physician may order a CT scan or MRI test in order to better determine the cause of your pinched nerve. The CT scan or MRI test will allow your physician to analyze the anatomy of your spine and locate and disc or vertebra that is out of alignment and impacting a nerve root, which is often the cause of chronic pain in the neck or back.
Once your physician determines the cause of your pain and diagnoses your pinched nerve, you can collaborate to form a treatment plan to help reduce your pain and symptoms.

Laser Spine Institute

While many mild spine conditions can be effectively treated through conservative methods of treatment, such as physical therapy or pain medication, some more severe conditions require surgery.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back surgery. Our minimally invasive procedures allow our patients to experience higher patient satisfaction and shorter recovery time^ than patients who undergo traditional open neck and back surgery.

Our minimally invasive surgery begins with the surgeon making a small, about 1-inch incision in the neck or back to access the spine. Unlike traditional open neck or back surgery that cuts through the muscles surrounding the spine, our minimally invasive surgery leaves the surrounding muscle and soft tissue undisturbed during the procedure. Once the spine is accessed, a portion of the diseased disc or vertebra is removed to free the pinched nerve. This is called a minimally invasive decompression surgery.

If the disc or vertebra is severely diseased, the surgeon might have to remove the entire component to free the pinched nerve. In this case, an implant would be inserted into the now-empty space to stabilize the spine. This is called a minimally invasive stabilization surgery. The type of surgery you undergo would be determined before the procedure during your physical evaluation and MRI testing with our medical staff.

For more information about our minimally invasive procedures to help treat a pinched nerve, please contact our Care Team. We are here to help you learn about your treatment options so you can make an informed decision about your spine care needs.

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