Understanding a compressed nerve

If you think you may be experiencing pain from a compressed nerve, it’s important to fully understand your condition in order to make the best treatment decisions to find lasting relief. A compressed nerve in the spine can lead to chronic pain that interferes with an individual’s ability to function day to day. Nerve compression can occur at any level of the spine, but is most common in the lumbar (lower back) region and the cervical (neck) region. These two regions, far more than the thoracic (middle back) region, are subjected to a great deal of wear and tear over time. The neck region supports the weight of the head and facilitates nodding and other head movement. The lumbar supports the entire upper body and is involved in a wide range of stress inducing body movement, like bending and twisting. With age, these factors can contribute to spinal instability, which can in turn produce the conditions that can pinch the nerve roots that branch off the spinal cord at each level.

How a compressed nerve causes symptoms

The nerve roots branch into nerves which carry motor and sensory signals between the brain and the rest of the body. When a part of the spine presses on a nerve root, the brain’s pain receptors can be triggered, telling the stimulated part of the body that it is supposed to experience discomfort. Other symptoms that a compressed nerve might produce include:

  • Radiating or shooting pain along the length of the nerve
  • Tingling or a loss of sensation (numbness) in the part of the body stimulated by the compressed nerve
  • Weakness or a loss of function in a muscle group related to the compressed nerve

The area of the body experiencing symptoms will depend on where in the spine the compressed nerve is located. Cervical nerve compression produces symptoms in the neck, upper back, shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. Lumbar nerve compression often involves the sciatic nerve, producing sciatica in the lower back, buttocks, legs, feet or toes.

Treatment for nerve compression

Conservative treatment usually brings relief for nerve compression symptoms, and may include pain medication, physical therapy, exercise and rest. However, surgery might become an option if chronic symptoms persist after several weeks or months of conservative treatment. If you have been recommended for surgery to treat your pain and other symptoms related to a compressed nerve, contact Laser Spine Institute. We offer minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures to treat a wide range of symptoms, all without the highly invasive nature of traditional open spine surgery. Our surgeons have perfected these innovative techniques which have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief to date. Contact us today to see if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.