Pinched nerve: overview and more


A pinched nerve is when pressure on the nerve from tissues, muscles, etc. surrounding areas is so large that it interrupts its operation. It can affect the spinal nerves or the peripheral (limb) nerves and cause symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness, numbness, and weakness. Arthritis and trauma are some of the main causes. Although pinched nerves do not usually result in irreversible nerve dysfunction, these consequences can occur.

Symptoms of a pinched nerve

Each nerve in the body is designed to detect sensations in specific areas of the skin or internal organs and / or to stimulate specific muscles / organs. For the nerves that serve the skin and the musculoskeletal system, the symptoms of a pinched nerve correspond to the sensory and motor function normally provided by a pinched nerve.

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Common symptoms of a pinched nerve that can occur when combined include :

  • Fire
  • Tingling sensations like needles or electric shocks.
  • Pain that usually comes from a pinched nerve
  • Pain in a seemingly unrelated place (such as in the elbow or arm due to a pinched nerve in the neck)
  • An area of numbness on the skin
  • Feeling of falling asleep in one arm or leg.
  • Decreased sensitivity to pain, temperature, or when touching an area of the skin.
  • Weakness of the affected muscles.

A pinched nerve generally affects only one side of the body and can range from mild to severe. However, you may have several pinched nerves, which can cause symptoms in several places.

Symptoms of a pinched nerve usually appear gradually and can often fluctuate. The intensity of your symptoms often depends on your physical position.

Most nerves sense sensation from one area on the skin and can control muscle movement in an adjacent (but slightly different) area. With this in mind, keep in mind that your weakness and sensory changes may not overlap in one part of your body.

Physical dysfunction

Sometimes a pinched nerve can affect certain physical functions. This is usually due to pinched nerves in the lower spine.

A pinched nerve can affect the following physical functions :

  • Bladder control
  • Bowel control
  • Sexual function

A pinched nerve is usually uncomfortable, but it can cause irreversible sensory damage or weakness if the nerve is compressed too much or is under pressure for too long. Be sure to seek medical attention if you have any symptoms of a pinched nerve.


Your nerves can get pinched when the tubes they pass through become inflamed or constricted.

The inflammation causes swelling, which can swell and enlarge around the nerve. Trauma can damage structures around the nerve (bones, cartilage, and soft tissues), causing physical pressure as well as inflammation.

There are many possible reasons (and risk factors) for this, including:

The spinal nerves travel from the spinal cord through small openings (intervertebral foramina) before reaching their destination in the extremities. These holes are located in the vertebrae, which are the bones of the spine. The narrow passage of the spinal foramen is a common site of nerve compression.

When a spinal nerve is compressed as it exits the opening, the condition is called radiculopathy .

Nerve canals throughout the body can also become inflamed, putting pressure on the nerve. For example, carpal tunnel syndrome , pinched ulnar nerve , and cubital tunnel syndrome are all examples of peripheral nerve compression .


Diagnosis of a pinched nerve begins with a complete medical history and physical exam. Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history, your physical activity, and any injuries you may have.

Your physical exam will include an evaluation of your sensations, reflexes, and motor strength. A pinched nerve in the spine can cause sensory changes consistent with the nerve's dermatome and muscle weakness or reflex changes consistent with the nerve myotome .

Symptom assessment

Some nerves are subject to compression due to their location. Certain repetitive activities or diseases also predispose you to pinching the nerve in certain places.

Your healthcare provider will likely recognize a pattern of sensory changes, pain, or weakness that matches these nerves.

Nerves) Location Compression results
Cervical nerve roots Upper column • Sensory changes and / or weakness in the shoulder, arm and / or hand.
Femoral Hip to knee

Weakness and / or sensory changes in the thigh.

Lateral thigh skin From the edge of the pelvis to the front of the thigh.

Pain in the front and outer part of the thigh.
(A condition known as meralgia paresthetica ).

Median Half of the hand and the wrist. • Decreased sensitivity in the thumb, the first two fingers, and the palm.
• Carpal tunnel syndrome
Peroneal Leg side Foot drop
Plant At the feet Tingling sensation on the sole of the foot.
Radial Medial side (to the thumb) of the hand and hand

Pain in the back of the hand

Sciatic Lower back, thighs, buttocks, legs (large nerve formed by the spinal nerves of the lumbosacral region)

• Pain and weakness in the legs.
• Bowel and bladder dysfunction.
(Compression of this nerve is known as sciatica ).

Tibial Along the tibia (largest bone in the lower leg) behind the knee and up to the ankle. Pain in the back of the leg and foot.
Ulnar Medial (inner) side of elbow

Altered sensations along the little finger, middle of the hand, and wrist (for example, when you hit your funny bone)

Diagnostic tests

Various tests can help to verify the location of the pinched nerve, assess the extent of nerve damage, and determine if there are structural problems that need to be addressed.

Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction study (NCV) are tests that involve placing needles and a stun gun in your extremities to help your healthcare team determine if you have nerve damage and help determine its severity if it is so.

These tests are a bit inconvenient, but they are not painful and only take a few minutes.

Imaging tests, such as X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the spine, can be helpful in evaluating bone fractures, joint injuries, or tumors, all of which can cause a pinched nerve.

Differential diagnosis

Pinched nerve is often used as a generic phrase to refer to muscle pain, neck pain, or pain in an arm or leg. Injury resulting from compression, compression, or stretching of a nerve cannot always be defined as a pinched nerve.

Other conditions that can be mistaken for a pinched nerve include:

Your physical exam and diagnostic tests can help your healthcare team distinguish a pinched nerve from these other conditions, which can help guide your treatment plan.

Watch out

Treatment for a pinched nerve is aimed at reducing the effects and preventing them from getting worse. There are several treatment strategies and you will probably need to use several of them to get the best effect .

Treatment options for a pinched nerve include:

Lifestyle adjustments

It is generally recommended to avoid movements that aggravate the pinched nerve. For example, for repetitive motion trauma, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, a mild case can be relieved by resting the arm and arm.

If weight gain is causing a pinched nerve, losing weight can ease symptoms. (Note: a pinched nerve associated with pregnancy often resolves after delivery.)


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil (ibuprofen) are often used to relieve inflammatory pain.

Steroids can be used orally (by mouth) or by injection to reduce inflammation around the compressed nerve.


Physical therapy , which includes safe exercise and learning about optimal locomotion to prevent repetitive motion injuries, is often used as initial treatment along with pain relief to reduce the effects of a pinched nerve.

Cervical traction , under the guidance of your therapist, can be used when a cervical nerve is pinched to free space where the nerves exit the spinal cord.


Splints can be used to reduce mobility and reduce inflammation around the nerve. This can be a particularly effective treatment for ulnar nerve compression.

Complementary and alternative options

Some people may benefit from treatments such as acupuncture or massage to control pain associated with a pinched nerve. TENS , a form of electrical stimulation, can also help relieve pain.

These therapies are used primarily for pain relief and do not appear to play a significant role on their own in reducing nerve compression .


Surgery may be required to remove the scar tissue, which will aggravate the compression of the nerve. Surgery can also relieve a source of nerve compression, such as a herniated disc, a bone fracture, or a tumor.

Often times, the effects of a pinched nerve worsen over time, but can sometimes improve if the cause (such as inflammation or weight gain) is addressed.

Get the word of drug information

Early diagnosis and treatment are important strategies to reduce damage from a pinched nerve. If you notice symptoms of a pinched nerve, it is important to seek medical attention so that your healthcare provider can identify any worrisome causes as soon as possible.

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