Feeling a sharp pain down your spine?
It may just be muscle fatigue, but it could also be a pinched nerve.
A pinched nerve—although typically non-life-threatening—can cause pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling that interfere with daily activities. They most often occur at one of three main spinal sections: cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine.
The good news is there are many pinched nerve treatment options available (most of them non-surgical) for you to try.
Learn about the latest techniques in pinched nerve treatment by consulting with the Back, Neck, and Spine Team at EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region. Our board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic specialists apply their expert-level understanding to spinal conditions and the most advanced treatment techniques to heal them.
What Is a Pinched Nerve?
A pinched nerve is when compression or irritation occurs at the point where the nerve branches off from the spinal cord. As stated above, it most commonly occurs in the neck (cervical spine), and lower back (lumbar spine), and less commonly in the upper back (thoracic spine).
In younger patients, a pinched nerve is more commonly caused by a herniated disc, which can occur spontaneously or after a specific injury.
In older patients, pinched nerves are typically caused by wear and tear, usually in the form of arthritis—bone spurs, calcium deposits, thickened ligaments, and collapsed/degenerated discs that put pressure on the nerve.
No matter the cause, symptoms of a pinched nerve may include:
- Sharp pain radiating from the location of the nerve to the area served by the nerve.
- Numbness, tingling, and/or a burning sensation.
- Weakness in the surrounding muscles.
- Pain with subtle neck or back movement.
How to Find Relief From a Pinched Nerve
Most patients find relief with non-surgical pinched nerve treatment options. Common pinched nerve treatment techniques include:
- Physical therapy Specific exercises (coupled with spinal traction in some cases) done over an appropriate period can relieve pain, strengthen the surrounding muscles, and improve pain in the affected area.
- Bracing. Depending on which area of your spine is affected, a soft cervical collar or a back brace can prevent further pinching by limiting movement and allowing the surrounding muscles to rest.
Note that most braces will need to be worn for short spurts to prevent permanent muscle weakness. You should follow the specific instructions of your orthopedic specialist for the best results.
- Oral medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, or oral corticosteroids can relieve pain by reducing inflammation, swelling, and irritation. Other medications may be prescribed as well.
- Steroid injections. Steroids are injected near the affected nerve to reduce inflammation.
If time and non-surgical treatments do not heal a pinched nerve or symptoms of weakness and numbness progress, surgery may be recommended. Surgery can include:
- Lumbar microdiscectomy
The herniated disc is removed from the spine to relieve pressure from the affected nerve.
- Lumbar laminectomy/hemilaminectomy
A procedure to remove the bone spurs and thickened ligaments pressing on nerves, and relieve the symptoms of a pinched nerve.
- Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion
The most common procedure to heal pinched nerves in the cervical spine (neck), anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, removes the problematic disc and/or bone spurs via an incision in the front (anterior) of the body. The spine is then stabilized using spinal fusion.
- Cervical disc replacement
An alternative to cervical fusion for some patients, cervical disc replacement addresses disc herniation, bone spurs are removed, and an artificial disc is inserted.
- Posterior cervical laminoforaminotomy
Similar to the treatment listed above, this procedure is generally used to treat pinched nerves in the cervical spine (neck). The surgeon will first use special tools to shave down the lamina (the arched bone that forms the backside of the spinal canal) for better access to the affected nerve.The doctor then removes any bone, bone spurs, tissue, or portions of the herniated disc that are causing the pinched nerve. This procedure is performed via an incision in the backside (posterior) of the body.
Experience Exceptional Pinched Nerve Treatment With EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region
A pinched nerve may go away on its own, but it may also get worse with time. If you are in pain, take the safe route and consult with EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region’s Back, Neck, and Spine Specialists to access a wealth of knowledge, experience, and medical innovations.
To learn more, self-schedule an appointment now. Or, call us any time at (919) 220-5255.