A pinched nerve results from pressure on a nerve from surrounding bone, muscle, cartilage or other tissue. This generally causes pain, numbness or tingling sensations and may even lead to impaired function. A pinched nerve can occur almost anywhere in the body, but the spinal column, with its complex skeletal structure and many nerve roots, is a common site. Most pinched nerves that occur in the spine occur in the neck or low back region as opposed to the mid back. Although pinched nerves can occur in the mid back, this region is supported by ribs and is less flexible than the neck and low back regions. Consequently, pinched nerves in the mid back are relatively rare.
Symptoms of Pinched Nerve
Depending on the location of the affected nerves, symptoms may involve the neck, shoulders, arms and fingers when nerves are pinched in the neck or buttocks, legs and feet when nerves are pinched in the low back. Symptoms can vary but mainly involve pain, numbness and tingling. In severe cases, weakness can occur in the affected arm or leg. A common type of pinched nerve is sciatica. Sciatica is characterized by shooting pain in the legs and is due to a pinched sciatic nerve in the lumbar region or low back. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body that travels from the base of the spine to the soles of the feet.
If the pressure on the nerves is only temporary, symptoms of a pinched nerve will resolve on their own, and full function will return. However, if constant compression on the nerve is not relieved, a pinched nerve can result in weakness, loss of reflexes and motor skills and atrophy of affected muscles. Once function is lost, it may be irreversible. Sustained weakness, numbness, or intractable pain may be an indication for surgical intervention.
Treatment for Pinched Nerve
Pinched nerves and many other spinal problems can be avoided by maintaining good posture, remaining fit and avoiding back strain. Treatment options for pinched nerve therapy include rest, exercises and manipulation to relieve pressure on the nerves, and medication to relax muscles and reduce inflammation of affected nerves.
Surgery for pinched nerve may be indicated when conservative measures fail to relieve symptoms. Severe pain, sustained numbness or significant weakness may be indications for surgical intervention. Sudden onset of weakness such as a foot drop should alert the patient to seek immediate neurosurgical consultation. At Princeton Neurological Surgery, Dr. John Lipani, a board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeon and specialist in complex and minimally invasive spinal surgery, offers surgical treatment for pinched nerve in the Greater Princeton, New Jersey area. If you would like to learn more about pinched nerve, please call or email us to schedule a consultation at our offices in Hamilton, New Jersey or Bridgewater, New Jersey!