What are the symptoms of a pinched nerve?

A pinched nerve is the most common cause of back pain in adults. In fact, spine conditions like a herniated disc or spinal stenosis do not cause pain or symptoms on their own; these symptoms only occur when a nearby nerve root is compressed. Therefore, most of the neck and back pain experienced is due to a pinched nerve near the spine.

Some of the most common symptoms of a pinched nerve in the cervical (neck), thoracic (middle back) or lumbar (lower back) spine include:

  • Localized pain at the site of nerve compression
  • Pain that radiates along the affected nerve
  • Unexpected muscle weakness
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Burning sensation

A common example of nerve compression

The symptoms of a pinched nerve can vary depending on the location and severity of the nerve compression. Because the nerve roots often travel a pathway from the spine into the closest extremity, a pinched nerve in the spinal canal can sometimes cause radiating pain that travels from the spine into the arm or leg.

For example, a compressed nerve in the lumbar spine (lower back) may cause sciatica or lower back pain, while a pinched nerve in the cervical spine (neck) may cause shoulder weakness or neck pain.

One of the difficulties of diagnosing the symptoms of a pinched nerve is that sometimes the symptoms are felt far away from the pinched nerve in a seemingly unrelated part of the body. This is called “referred pain.” Unlike radiating pain that travels along the pathway of the nerve root, causing pain to extend from the spine to the arm or leg, referred pain occurs when the symptoms only appear in the extremity or related area without pain anywhere else.

An example of referred nerve pain is when a pinched nerve in the thoracic spine (upper back) causes pain in the upper abdomen. This pain can be felt just in the upper abdomen and might be misdiagnosed as a gastrointestinal or cardiac issue instead of a pinched nerve in the spine.

Spinal nerve decompression

Nerve decompression simply means reducing the pressure on the compressed nerve (hence, de-compression) and can help relieve the pain and symptoms. While this can often be achieved with conservative treatments that stretch and strengthen the spine, like yoga and exercise, it can also be accomplished with the minimally invasive decompression surgery at Laser Spine Institute.

During this procedure, our surgeons remove the piece of the damaged disc, joint or vertebra of the spine that is compressing the nerve root. This surgery is done through a less than 1-inch incision and does not require any muscle disruption, making it a safer, more effective option than traditional open back surgery.

To see if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a review of your MRI report or CT scan.

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