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Pinched nerve in the spine

What is a pinched nerve?

A pinched nerve refers to a nerve that is compressed or irritated. While pinched nerves can develop anywhere in the body, a common area where this condition occurs is the spine. When a nerve root that extends out from the spinal cord is compressed, it can create a series of symptoms along the entire pathway of that nerve, causing pain and discomfort, and ultimately requiring treatment.

How is a pinched nerve diagnosed?

A doctor will be able to diagnose a compressed nerve in the spine by reviewing your symptoms and using medical imaging. An X-ray, CT scan or MRI may be used to pinpoint the location of the affected nerve and identify the severity of the compression.

What causes a pinched nerve?

There are numerous conditions that can result in a compressed nerve in the spine, including:

  • A bulging or herniated disc
  • Bone spurs
  • Spinal arthritis
  • Facet disease
  • Degenerative disc disease

In each of these conditions, the surrounding bone or tissue places pressure on the nerve, causing it to compress. A spinal pinched nerve is also associated with several risk factors. Individuals who are older, overweight or involved in high-impact sports are more susceptible to pinched nerves due to the pressure and wear and tear on the spine.

What are the symptoms of a pinched nerve?

There are a range of symptoms associated with a pinched nerve, including:

  • Pain at the location of the compression
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Muscle weakness

A compressed spinal nerve can create various symptoms along the entire nerve pathway, not just at the site of the compression. Therefore, the location of the compressed nerve will determine where symptoms are experienced. If the affected nerve is located in the cervical, or upper, spine, symptoms may appear in the upper body, shoulders, arms or fingertips. An affected nerve in the lumbar, or lower, spine may irritate the sciatic nerve, which will produce symptoms in the lower body down through the legs.

How is a pinched nerve treated?

There are many conservative treatment options available that a doctor may recommend as a first step. Certain treatments may be more effective than others, depending on the nature of your specific condition. Some of the most commonly recommended treatments include improving posture, diet and exercise, physical therapy, over-the-counter pain medications and hot/cold compresses. Some patients also explore alternative treatment options like acupuncture or chiropractic manipulation.

Is surgery necessary?

If conservative treatment methods are not doing enough to alleviate symptoms of a pinched nerve, it may be time to consider minimally invasive spine surgery. Surgery aims to address the underlying cause of the compressed nerve. Laser Spine Institute specializes in minimally invasive, outpatient spine procedures that require only a small incision and spare more surrounding tissue than traditional open neck or back surgery.

To learn more about receiving minimally invasive surgery for a spinal pinched nerve at Laser Spine Institute in Philadelphia, contact us today. We offer a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.