What are the causes and risk factors for a pinched nerve?

Often, a pinched nerve causes pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness in the neck, back, hips, shoulders and/or extremities. In many cases, nerve compression in the neck or back is caused by a degenerative spinal condition such as osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease or spinal stenosis. While these degenerative conditions are primarily caused by the natural aging process, there are certain risk factors that can be avoided to help fend off a pinched spinal nerve down the road.

Specific risk factors for a pinched nerve

The spine is constructed to support the weight of the upper body while remaining flexible enough for basic movement. Over time the parts of the spine, such as the joints and discs, become less able to withstand the pressure being placed on them every day. This can lead to conditions like arthritis and degenerative disc disease that can narrow the spine and compress nerves. Though the aging process is an unavoidable fact of life, there are some things we can do to optimize the health of our spine. To prevent the conditions that lead to a pinched nerve in the spine, doctors will often recommend:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Not using tobacco products
  • Moderating alcohol consumption
  • Staying active and getting regular exercise
  • Avoiding high-impact sports, such as hockey, gymnastics and football

Some pinched nerve causes are thought to be genetic, which means they will develop in some patients despite their best efforts to maintain a healthy spine.

Treating spinal nerve compression

Upon diagnosis, over-the-counter medication, physical therapy and the application of a heating pad or a cold compress are among the most common conservative treatments for a pinched nerve. If several weeks or months of these treatments fail to provide a patient with adequate relief, a physician may recommend surgical treatment.

Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive spine surgery that is a safer and effective alternative^ to traditional open spine procedures. Since 2005, we have helped more than 60,000 patients find relief with our streamlined outpatient experience.

To find out if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures, our caring and dedicated team is happy to perform a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan.*

Browse Related Resources