Signs of a Pinched Nerve
Signs of a pinched nerve can vary depending on which level of the spine contains the neural compression. For instance, a herniated disc in the lumbar spine (lower back) will produce different symptoms than a herniated disc in the cervical spine (neck). However, a good indication of a pinched nerve, regardless of its location, is if you feel pain that seems to travel. While the discomfort may take the form of sharp pain, burning pain, throbbing, tingling, numbness or weakness, it will most likely follow the path of the compressed nerve and spread from the neck or back and through the extremities.
At-home diagnostic tests
If you have felt the signs of a pinched nerve, you should visit your primary care physician. However, it might be a good idea to perform a few at-home diagnostic tests so that you can get a better sense of how to describe your symptoms when you arrive for your appointment.
- Cervical test – Flex your neck forward and try to hold for 10 to 15 seconds; next, flex your neck backward and try to hold for 10 to 15 seconds. If you experience pain in either position, you may have a pinched spinal nerve in the cervical region.
- Thoracic test – Try taking several long, deep breaths and then hold your hips still while you twist from side to side. If you feel pain at any point, you may have a thoracic pinched nerve in your middle back.
- Lumbar test – Lie on your back and lift one leg several inches off the ground, then do the same with the other leg. If you feel discomfort in your lower back, you may have a pinched lumbar nerve.
Getting a professional diagnosis
When you meet with your physician and report your signs of a pinched nerve, try to be as accurate and honest as possible about the location, frequency and severity of your pain. Also, be specific about the nature of the pain (sharp pain, burning pain, throbbing, tingling, numbness or weakness). Your physician may decide to order an MRI or CT scan to confirm a diagnosis.