If you’ve ever dealt with a pinched nerve, you know how painful it can be. A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by bones, muscles, tendons, or cartilage. This pressure can cause debilitating pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness. Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of pinched nerves.
Where a Pinched Nerve Occurs
There isn’t just one spot where these can develop. For example, a herniated disk in your lower spine may put pressure on a nerve root, causing extreme pain that radiates down the back of your leg. A pinched nerve can also occur in your wrist, which leads to pain and numbness in your hand and fingers (which is what we often refer to as carpal tunnel syndrome).
Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve
These can include:
- Decreased sensation or numbness in the area of the nerve
- Sharp, burning, or aching pain that may radiate outward
- Tingling or pins and needles sensations
- Muscle weakness in the affected area
- Frequent sensation that a foot or hand has “fallen asleep”
Pinched Nerve Diagnosis
If your pinched nerve gets to the point where you must see a back doctor, you can expect to undergo any combination of the following tests:
- Nerve conduction study – A spine doctor will use this study to measure electrical nerve impulses, as well as muscle/nerve functioning through electrodes placed on the skin. The results of a nerve conduction study will show whether you’re suffering from a damaged nerve.
- Electromyography (EMG) – This involves a doctor inserting a needle electrode through your skin into various muscles. An EMG evaluates the electrical activity of your muscles both when they contract and when they’re at rest. In contrast to a nerve conduction study, the results from an EMG will show whether there is damage to the nerves leading to the muscle.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – Of the various ways to diagnose a pinched nerve, this may be the most common. An MRI uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed views of your body. Should your doctor suspect you have root compression, you can expect an MRI to be completed.
- High-resolution ultrasound – If it’s believed that you have developed some sort of nerve compression syndrome, such as carpal tunnel, this tends to be what doctors turn to for the answer. High-resolution ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of structures within the affected area.
Pinched Nerve Treatment
In the majority of cases, pinched nerves heal on their own. Make it a point to temporarily stop activities that may cause or aggravate compression. More severe cases, however, may warrant treatment from a professional. Here are three of the more common treatment options for pinched nerves:
- Physical therapy – As a way to relieve pressure on the nerve, a physical therapist will teach patients exercises that strengthen and stretch muscles in the affected area. They may also recommend modifications to activities that aggravate the nerve.
- Medications – Over-the-counter pain medications can temporarily relieve the pain that comes with pinched nerves. Just be sure to never use OTC medications as a long-term treatment strategy.
- Surgery – The combination of the aforementioned treatments above should be enough to relieve your pinched nerve. However, if you don’t see improvement after several months, your doctor may recommend surgery to take pressure off the nerve. Depending on the location of the pinched nerve, the type of surgery varies. Keep in mind that surgery usually involves removing bone spurs or a part of a herniated disk in the spine. Surgery should only be considered as a last resort option.
How Our Spine Surgeon Can Help
Whether it’s a pinched nerve, sciatica, herniated disc, or another source of lower back pain, you want to feel better as quickly as possible. Unlike other local back doctors, though, our spine surgeon has a different way of doing things. We don’t believe in simply masking the pain or going straight to the most invasive procedure possible. With years of experience helping folks in the New Orleans area, we come up with an individualized treatment plan that’s designed for no other patient.
At the International Spine Institute, our goal is to be the most innovative practice of our kind, offering the least invasive procedures. By tailoring treatments to our patients, they can enjoy the quickest, most efficient recovery possible. This allows patients to return to their previously active and pain-free lifestyle.
Here are just some of the back pain treatments we offer:
- Regenerative disc therapy
- Minimally invasive spine surgery
- Virtual consultations
- Free MRI reviews
Why continue to suffer and let a pinched nerve ruin your life? Dr. Marco Rodriguez and the rest of our experienced staff can help you get back on track to optimal health. See what the International Spine Institute can do on your behalf.
Call today to schedule your initial consultation.