How Common is a Pinched Nerve?
A pinched nerve can cause pain, numbness, and other symptoms, and although it can sometimes improve on its own, you may also need medical care if symptoms linger.
In this blog, Dr. Steven Schiebert, an orthopedic surgeon with New Jersey Spine Surgeons, explains more about pinched nerves, including how common they are.
What is a pinched nerve?
Nerves extend from your brain and spinal cord to send messages throughout your body. A nerve can become pinched if it suffers damage from pressure applied by surrounding bones, muscles, tendons, or tissues. This can result in compression, constriction, or stretching of the nerve.
This type of damage can occur at a number of places in your body, such as your lower spine and your wrist (carpal tunnel syndrome).
What causes a pinched nerve?
Pinched nerves can result from the following:
- Repetitive motions
- Poor posture
- Spinal Injury
- Being overweight or obese
- Holding your body in one position for long periods of time
- An underlying spine disorder
You’re at higher risk of having a pinched nerve if you have bone spurs, thyroid disease, diabetes, or are a woman.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms resulting from pinched nerves can be temporary or long-lasting, and they can be minor or severe. They can include the following:
- Numbness or tingling
- Pain where the nerve is pinched
- Pain that radiates from where the nerve is pinched
- A burning sensation or the feeling of “pins and needles”
- Muscle weakness
How common is a pinched nerve?
A pinched nerve is very common since nerves must travel through narrow spaces with little soft tissue to protect them, and this can make them vulnerable to being damaged. And since they can be caused by several different things, this compounds the likelihood of a pinched nerve.
What are the treatment options for pinched nerves?
Treatment will vary according to the cause and severity of the nerve compression. Common treatments include the following:
- Resting the injured area – sometimes using a splint or brace to immobilize the area, depending on where it is
- Avoiding activities that worsen your symptoms
- Physical therapy – exercises can strengthen and stretch the muscles around the affected nerve to relieve pressure on the nerve
- Medication – nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can help relieve pain
- Corticosteroids – administered by mouth or by injection, corticosteroids can relieve inflammation and pain
- Surgery – may be needed if conservative treatments aren’t effective. It can involve removing what’s causing pressure on the nerve, such as scar tissue, disc material, or bone spurs. Some surgeries are minimally invasive, so recovery time will be quicker.
The following types of surgery can be used to treat cervical pinched nerves (in the neck):
- Cervical disc replacement
- Cervical fusion
- Posterior spinal fusion
- Laminotomy and decompression
And the following surgeries may be performed for lumbar pinched nerves (in the lower spine):
- Minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF)
- Minimally invasive posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF)
- Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF)
- Oblique lumbar interbody fusion (OLIF)
- Extreme lateral interbody fusion (XLIF)
- Axial fusion
- Endoscopic foraminotomy, discectomy, and decompression
If you’re suffering from pain, numbness, tingling, or another symptom that could indicate that you have a pinched nerve, make an appointment today with New Jersey Spine Surgeons. We use conservative and minimally invasive treatments whenever possible to give you the relief you need.