How do nerves get pinched?

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 — the largest nerve in the body located in the lower back — can become pinched by a herniated disc, for example. The herniated disc material moves out of place in the spine and presses against the sciatic nerve. This compression interferes with the function of the nerve, which is to send signals between the brain, lower back, legs and feet. Therefore, when the sciatic nerve gets pinched, the pain and symptoms can radiate from the lower back all the way into the feet.

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 nerve compression symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Tingling
  • Burning sensation

Treatment of a pinched nerve

In some cases, pinched nerve pain resolves on its own with treatments like rest or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication. 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 physician may recommend at-home stretches and pain medication or a physical therapy program. These treatments can be combined with several other conservative therapies under the guidance of your physician. However, if conservative treatment does not alleviate your nerve pain, 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: removal of disc material that presses on nerves. Used to treat conditions including degenerative disc disease, bulging discs and herniated discs.
  • Foraminotomy: the clearing out of bone or tissue in the foramen to ease the pressure on the nerve passing through. Used to treat conditions including foraminal stenosis, bulging discs, herniated discs and bone spurs.
  • Laminotomy: a removal of a portion of the lamina (a thin bone plate that protects the spinal cord) to create more room underneath. 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 and ask for a review of your MRI report or CT scan.

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