Diagnostic tests for a pinched lumbar nerve

A pinched lumbar nerve means that a nerve or nerve root in the lower back is being compressed by a damaged portion of the spine, such as a herniated disc, a bulging disc, bone spurs or spinal stenosis. This nerve compression in the lower back can often result in symptoms of chronic pain in the back, as well as pain, numbness and tingling 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.

In order to determine the cause of your pinched lumbar nerve, you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. When you visit your physician, he or she will perform a variety of diagnostic tests that could range from physical exam to a straight leg raise test to an MRI scan. To help your physician make a correct diagnosis, be sure that you describe all of your symptoms as accurately and honestly as possible, noting the date of onset, location, frequency and severity of your symptoms.

Knowing the difference between injections

A common method that physicians use to diagnose a pinched lumbar nerve, or any other spine condition, 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 selective nerve blocks. A temporary numbing medicine is injected into the area containing the nerve that the physician suspects is pinched. The medication usually lasts for 20 to 30 minutes, and the patient can tell the physician if the patient feels relief. If so, the site of your discomfort has been located.
  • 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 one week to one year.

Taking action after a diagnosis

Once your physician has confirmed a diagnosis of a pinched nerve, he or she will likely start you on a conservative, noninvasive treatment plan that includes physical therapy, rest, hot and cold compresses, pain medication or an epidural steroid injection.

If months of these methods do not provide pain relief, and your physician suggests that you consider surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute to request a review of your MRI or CT scan 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.^

For more information about the benefits of our minimally invasive decompression and stabilization surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today.

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