Causes of a pinched nerve

A pinched nerve in the spine occurs when a bone spur, herniated disc or other tissue compresses a nerve, causing pain at the site of the nerve and possibly along the entire nerve pathway into other areas of the body. A very common form of nerve compression is sciatica. The sciatic nerve in the lower back, which is the largest nerve in the body, can become pinched by a herniated disc.

The herniated disc material moves out of place in the spine and presses against the sciatic nerve. This compression interferes with the nerve sending signals between the brain, lower back, legs and feet. Therefore, when the sciatic nerve gets pinched, the pain and discomfort can radiate from the lower back all the way to the feet. To learn about the symptoms of a pinched nerve and options for relief, read the following article.

Symptoms of a pinched nerve

Pinched nerve symptoms can range from acute to chronic, depending on the severity of the nerve compression. Patients suffering from a pinched nerve almost always experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Tingling
  • Burning

Treatment of a pinched nerve

In some cases, pinched nerve pain resolves on its own with treatments like rest or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If your pain continues after a few days or a week without relief, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. Depending on the severity of the pain, your doctor may recommend at-home stretches, pain medication or a physical therapy program.

These treatments can be combined with several other conservative therapies under the guidance of your doctor. However, if conservative treatment does not ease your nerve pain after several weeks or months, you may be recommended for open back surgery or minimally invasive spine surgery.

Depending on the cause of your pinched nerve, any of the following surgeries may be recommended:

  • Discectomy. During this procedure, the disc material that presses on nerves is removed. It is used to treat conditions including degenerative disc disease, bulging discs and herniated discs.
  • Foraminotomy. This procedure involves the clearing out of bone or tissue in the foramen to ease the pressure on the nerve passing through. It is used to treat conditions including foraminal stenosis, bulging discs, herniated discs and bone spurs.
  • Laminotomy. A portion of the lamina (a thin bone plate that protects the spinal cord) is removed to create more room underneath. It is used to treat conditions including spinal stenosis, bulging disc, herniated disc and bone spurs.

These procedures can be performed through traditional open back surgery or minimally invasive spine surgery. The minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute offers a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery, with benefits such as a shorter recovery time and lower risk of complication.^ In some cases, a minimally invasive stabilization surgery may be recommended to strengthen the spine. To find out more about our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today.

As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, Laser Spine Institute has performed more than 75,000 patient procedures since 2005. To find out if you are a potential candidate for the outpatient procedures we offer at our surgery centers throughout the country, reach out to our team. Through a free MRI review,* we can determine if our procedures would be effective in relieving your pinched nerve symptoms.

Browse Related Resources