Pinched lumbar nerve diagnostic tests

A pinched lumbar nerve means that a nerve in the lower back is being compressed by a damaged portion of the spine, such as a herniated disc, bulging disc, bone spur or spinal stenosis. This nerve compression can often result in symptoms of chronic pain in the area of the particular nerve, as well as pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the buttocks, legs and feet. In some severe cases, loss of bladder and bowel control may occur. If this happens, seek medical attention immediately.

To determine the cause of your pinched lumbar nerve, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. He or she will perform a variety of diagnostic tests that could range from a physical exam to an MRI scan. To help your doctor make a correct diagnosis, be sure that you describe all your symptoms as accurately and honestly as possible, noting the date of onset, location, frequency and severity of your symptoms. Read the following article to learn about the types of diagnostic tests for a pinched nerve.

Knowing the difference between injections

A common method that doctors use to diagnose a pinched lumbar nerve is a diagnostic injection. However, some patients confuse this with an injection used for pain management. The differences are detailed below:

  • Diagnostic injections. These are also referred to as a selective nerve root block (SNRB). A temporary numbing medicine is injected into the area containing the nerve that the doctor suspects is pinched. The medication allows the patient to tell the physician if they feel relief, which identifies the site of the discomfort.
  • Pain management injections. These are also referred to as epidural steroid injections. A slow-release steroid, usually cortisone, is injected into the area that contains the pinched nerve. This should reduce, if not eliminate, pain for anywhere from a few weeks or months, to a year.

Taking action after a diagnosis

Once your doctor has confirmed a diagnosis of a pinched nerve, he or she will likely start you on a conservative treatment plan that includes physical therapy, intermittent periods of rest, hot and cold compresses, pain medication or an epidural steroid injection. If several weeks or months of these methods do not provide pain relief, and your doctor suggests that you consider surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute to request a free MRI review* today.

We offer minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures used to treat the most common spine conditions. Our procedures help relieve pain by removing the pressure from the pinched nerve without compromising the stability of the spine. Because of our minimally invasive approach, our procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery, and our patients can experience a shorter recovery time.^ To find out if you are a potential candidate for our outpatient surgery, reach out to our team. We can help guide you on your road to recovery.

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