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Pinched Nerve in the Back

At a Glance

  • A pinched nerve is the result of an underlying problem that compresses, constricts or stretches a nerve.
  • A herniated disc is the underlying condition that most often causes a pinched nerve in the back.
  • Other conditions that may cause a pinched nerve include a bone spur, synovial cyst, bone fragment, a tumor or spinal stenosis.


Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve

Whenever people talk about a foot or a hand falling asleep – meaning the limb experiences some numbness and/or tingling – they’re actually referring to the mild case of a single compressed nerve.

When the pinched nerve is in the back, common symptoms include pain in a foot, leg, hand or arm, numbness, a burning sensation, and in severe cases muscle weakness and even partial paralysis.

A pinched nerve located outside of the spinal canal is called nerve entrapment syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common form of entrapment. These injuries may result in temporary damage or a more permanent condition.

It is extremely important to distinguish between these problems by doing special testing, such as an EMG/nerve conduction study. In this test, a technician gently inserts needles into muscles in order to measure the speed of the body’s nerve signals. The findings will usually help find the cause of symptoms such as numbness or weakness.

Sciatica is a clinical diagnosis resulting from a pinched nerve in the lumbar spine. Nagging lower back pain is the most common symptom, and sciatica can also present as severe pain, numbness, and even weakness in the lower extremity.

Radiculopathy is a pinched nerve that causes nerve damage. A clinical exam combined with an EMG/ nerve conduction study is the best way to identify if the radiculopathy is chronic or acute, and if the injury is still occurring. The course of treatment depends on this diagnosis.


Anatomy & Causes

A herniated disc occurs when the soft center ruptures though the outer wall of the disc structure. This happens when this outer wall (called the annulus) begins to thin, stretch, and come apart, which occurs due to aging, wear and tear or injury.

The condition can occur in the neck or middle back, but is most common in the lower back, called the lumbar spine.

Types of herniated disc, from least serious to most serious, are: Bulging disc, protruded or contained herniation, extruded herniation, and a sequestered herniation. Herniation is sometimes linked to obesity, improper lifting, smoking, sudden pressure, and repetitive strenuous activities.

Other conditions that may cause a pinched nerve include: Bone Spurs, Spinal Stenosis, synovial cyst, bone fragment and a tumor.


Treatment for Pinched Nerves

Because a pinched nerve can be the result of several conditions, treatments will vary. Common treatments for herniated disc include over-the-counter and prescription medications, physical therapy, pain management techniques, and a variety of surgical procedures.


If you are suffering from these symptoms, you may be interested to know that Biscup Spine offers a free MRI review with Dr. Biscup  to help determine more about your condition.


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most common symptoms of a pinched nerve?
What is the difference between a pinched nerve and radiculopathy?
What can I do about cysts in my spine that are pressing on nerves?
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