What will happen if a pinched nerve in the spine goes untreated?

Nerves are the critical pathways through which the brain and body communicate. Most nerves descend from the brain via the spinal cord before branching out through openings between the vertebrae called foramen. These passageways are small to begin with, and should anything further constrict their openings, a nerve root can become compressed. Because of this, the spine is the most common location for pinched nerves, although they can occur anywhere a nerve threads between bones, tendons or ligaments.

The symptoms of a pinched nerve can range from sharp stabbing pains at the site of the compression to tingling, numbness and muscle weakness along the length of the affected nerve. If the constriction is in the upper or cervical spine, symptoms can manifest in the shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. If it’s in the lower or lumbar spine, symptoms may occur in the buttocks, legs, feet and toes.

Some common causes of a spinal pinched nerve include:

  • Bulging or herniated discs
  • Bone spurs
  • Arthritis of the spine
  • Damaged or inflamed facet joints
  • Misaligned vertebrae

All of the above are considered degenerative conditions that usually worsen slowly over time. Because of this, symptoms tend to be mild at first. If you’ve been diagnosed with a pinched nerve in your neck or back, you may be wondering if treatment is necessary. Sometimes, the pain goes away on its own after a few weeks. This can be the case if nerve compression is caused by temporarily inflamed tissue. In other situations, conservative pinched nerve treatment options are recommended to help manage discomfort. These may include over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, limited rest and lifestyle changes.

In some cases, however, an untreated pinched nerve can lead to chronic, debilitating pain and permanent nerve damage. If you are still experiencing symptoms even after months of conservative pain-management strategies, you may want to explore more advanced treatment options. At Laser Spine Institute, we are the leader in minimally invasive surgeries that have helped patients find relief from a wide variety of spine conditions. Our outpatient procedures are often clinically appropriate and provide many advantages versus open neck or back surgery.^ Determining if you might be a candidate for our surgeries begins with a free MRI review.* To learn how to obtain yours, contact a member of the Laser Spine Institute team today.

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