What is nerve pain? An overview of causes and treatment options

Nerve pain describes the symptom or symptoms that most commonly accompany the irritation or compression of a nerve in the body.

One of the most common places for nerve compression and subsequent nerve pain to develop is in the spinal column, especially in the flexible cervical (upper) and lumbar (lower) regions. The duration and severity of nerve pain varies depending on the source of the nerve compression, ranging from sharp acute pain to dull and throbbing chronic pain.

In some cases, nerve pain can travel the length of the nerve pathway. This is referred to as radiating pain. For example, if the large sciatic nerve in the lower back is pinched, the pain and symptoms may travel the entire length of the sciatic nerve, which extends from the lower back all the way to the feet.

If spinal nerve pain is affecting your life, it is important to educate yourself as a patient. Learning more about the underlying causes and full range of treatment options can give you the best chance of finding lasting relief and the quality of life you deserve.

Conditions that cause nerve pain

Nerve pain is something that nearly everyone will experience at some point in life. Something as simple as a minor muscle strain or ligament sprain can result in a pinched nerve. This pain normally subsides on its own after several days of rest and basic treatments like cold compression, however it is always recommended to discuss treatment of even mild pain with your doctor.

A common underlying cause of more chronic nerve pain is something that cannot be avoided: the natural aging process. As we grow older, our spine naturally begins to deteriorate as a result of regular wear and tear. This degeneration can result in displaced spinal anatomy that can compress spinal nerves, resulting in symptoms that can include nerve pain.

Some of the most common degenerative spine conditions that can cause nerve pain include:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Bone spurs
  • Facet disease
  • Calcified ligaments
  • Bulging discs
  • Herniated discs
  • Spinal arthritis

Treatment options for nerve pain

In many cases, nerve pain can be effectively managed with a combination of exercises, medication, hot/cold compresses, physical therapy and other nonsurgical treatments monitored by your doctor.

However, if you continue to suffer from symptoms of nerve compression several weeks or months after beginning conservative treatment, you may be presented with spine surgery. Before consenting to a highly invasive traditional open spine procedure, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive spine surgery. Our surgeons use muscle-sparing techniques to provide a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back surgery.^

To date, our minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization surgeries have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain. To find out if you are a candidate for one of our procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a no-cost review* of your MRI report or CT scan.