Pinched nerve in the back

By Michael Perry, M.D.

A pinched nerve in the back can occur anywhere along the spinal column and can be caused by a variety of conditions. Some of the more common causes include bulging discs, herniated discs, bone spurs and inflamed tissues, all of which can narrow the spinal canal and compress a nerve root or the spinal cord.

When any of these conditions put abnormal pressure on a nerve root or the spinal cord, they prevent the nerve from properly transmitting electrical signals to its peripheral nerves, causing pain, tingling, weakness and numbness in the area of the body that those peripheral nerves lead to.

Causes of a pinched nerve in the back

If a bulging disc, for example, puts pressure on nerve roots in the lumbar (lower) region of the spine, lower back pain, loss of motor control in the leg and possible numbness in the big toe may result because these are the areas to which nerves in the lumbar region transmit signals.

One particularly well-known nerve starting in the lower back is the sciatic nerve. When any part of the large sciatic nerve becomes pinched, pain travels from the lower back to the buttocks, back of the thigh and calf, and possibly to the toes. Pinching of the sciatic nerve, which can also cause weakness in the lower body, is known as sciatica.

A pinched nerve in the back or a pinched nerve in the neck can be attributed to factors such as:

  • Age-related deterioration and osteoarthritis
  • Repetitive motion injury
  • Traumatic injury such as an automobile accident
  • Extra body weight
  • Scar tissue formation after surgery
  • Cysts and tumors
  • Poor posture or osteoarthritis

All of these conditions can cause vertebrae, spinal discs and surrounding tissues to degenerate, shift or become malformed.

Treating a pinched nerve in the back

If you are diagnosed with a pinched nerve in the back, initial treatment may include rest, massage, hot/cold therapy, mild exercise, anti-inflammatory or prescription medications and electrical stimulation. If these treatments are not effective, your physician may then prescribe corticosteroid injections to treat a pinched nerve in the back. In some cases these treatments can relieve pinched nerve symptoms enough for patients to resume an active lifestyle and enjoy an acceptable quality of life.

However, if you have chronic, debilitating symptoms, your physician may recommend traditional open back surgery. If you are considering surgery, learn about the minimally invasive spine surgery available at Laser Spine Institute. These procedures can provide relief from pinched nerve symptoms with a shorter recovery time^ and less risk of complication than traditional open spine surgery.

For a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you’re a potential candidate for one of our procedures, contact us today.

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