English 6 MIN READ 333 VIEWS May 30, 2023

Dealing with a Pinched Nerve? You Should Know This

Experiencing shooting pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in the arm or leg? These can be symptoms of a pinched nerve, a condition wherein a nerve gets compressed due to pressure exerted by bones, muscles, tendons, or cartilage. 

A pinched nerve can be a painful and frustrating condition. However, it comes with a range of treatment options that can help alleviate symptoms and help you manage the condition better. But timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment is the key. 

What is a Pinched Nerve?

A pinched nerve occurs when a nerve is compressed or irritated due to pressure exerted by the surrounding bones, muscles, tendons, or cartilage. It causes pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the affected area. There are a range of factors that can trigger the condition such as injury, repetitive motion, poor posture, obesity, pregnancy, degenerative conditions, and spinal issues. 

Causes of Nerve Damage

There are many possible causes of a pinched nerve. The most typical ones include:

  • Injury or trauma to the affected area – A sudden force, pressure or impact on the body can damage the local nerves. They may become compressed or irritated.
  • Repetitive motion or overuse – Performing repetitive movements time and again is a very common cause of a pinched nerve.
  • Poor posture – Constant slouching, hunching, or an incorrect sitting or standing posture can put pressure on the nerves in the neck, back, and shoulders.
  • Obesity or sudden weight gain – Packing extra weight puts pressure on the nerves and can compress them. A pinched nerve in back is most commonly linked to obesity.
  • Bone Spurs – Sudden growth spurts can narrow down spaces through which nerves pass, causing a pinched nerve.
  • Pregnancy – Each passing trimester puts pressure on the nerves in the lower back and hips, causing a pinched nerve in back and hip.
  • Arthritis or other degenerative conditions – Degenerative conditions affect the joints and tissues in the body. This puts pressure on the surrounding nerves.
  • Herniated or bulging discs in the spine – Herniated or bulging disc in the spine compresses nerves in the spinal cord. 

Pinched Nerve Symptoms

The pinched nerve symptoms can vary depending on the location and severity of the nerve compression. The most common symptoms include:

  • Pain – It is the most common symptom of a pinched nerve. The affected area may experience sharp or dull, constant or intermittent pain.
  • Numbness or Tingling – Numbness, tingling, or a sensation of ‘pins and needles’ pricking in the affected area is common. It can range from mild to severe and may be constant or episodic.
  • Weakness – A compressed nerve often leads to muscle weakness and loss of strength in the affected area. This makes movement difficult.  
  • Sensitivity – When a nerve is pinched it becomes hypersensitive. This causes extreme sensitivity to touch and pressure as it becomes more reactive to any kind of stimulus.
  • Muscle Spasms – Swelling or muscle spasm is commonly experienced in the affected area. This is painful, uncomfortable, and impairs movement.
  • Radiating Pain – A pinched nerve in neck or spine region can trigger radiating pain that travels down the arms or legs. 
  • Loss of Reflexes – When a nerve is compressed, it affects the normal signal-transmitting capacity. This results in a loss of reflexes in the affected area.
  • Coordination Difficulties – Disruption of the nerve signals that control muscle movements can cause difficulty in coordination and movement. This increases the risk of falls and injuries.

Pinched Nerve Sites

A pinched nerve can occur in various parts of the body. The most common sites of trauma include:

  • Neck – It is one of the most common pinched nerve sites. A pinched nerve in the neck can cause pain, tingling, and numbness that radiates down the arm.
  • Shoulder – A pinched nerve in the shoulder triggers pain and weakness in the arm and hand.
  • Elbow – A pinched nerve in the elbow is responsible for pain, tingling sensation, and weakness in the forearm and hand.
  • Wrist – A pinched nerve in wrist is one of the most common causes of carpal tunnel syndrome. It causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and fingers.
  • Back A pinched nerve in the lower back or the lumbar spine causes pain, numbness, and weakness that radiates down the leg. A pinched nerve in spine can impair movement. 
  • Hip – A pinched nerve in the hip causes pain and numbness in the thigh and leg region.
  • Knee – A pinched nerve is responsible for pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the lower leg and foot.
  • Foot – A pinched nerve in the foot triggers pain, numbness, and tingling in the toes and bottom of the foot.

Pinched Nerve: At-Risk Groups

A pinched nerve can affect anyone, anytime. However, there are a group of people who run a higher risk of developing a pinched nerve. These are:

  • Elders – Ageing directly increases the risk of developing a pinched nerve. This is because the spine discs become less flexible and get susceptible to damage with age.
  • Sportspersons and People Performing Repetitive Tasks – People indulging in repetitive motions and movements like typing, playing a certain sport, etc run a higher risk of developing a pinched nerve.
  • Overweight and Obese – Every extra kilo of weight puts extra pressure on the nerves. Thus overweight and obese people run the maximum risk of compression or nerve irritation.
  • Pregnant Women – The risk of developing a compressed nerve increases as the pregnancy term increases. 
  • Diabetics – Constantly high blood sugar levels increase the risk of nerve damage. People suffering from diabetes are most likely to develop compressed nerves.

Diagnosis of Pinched Nerve

The diagnosis of a pinched nerve typically begins with understanding pinched nerve symptoms. It requires a physical examination by a healthcare professional who will assess your symptoms and ask questions about your medical history. The physical examination will include an evaluation of reflexes, muscle strength, and sensation in the affected area.

A case of suspected pinched nerve requires additional tests. These are:

  • Imaging Tests – Imaging tests like X-rays, MRI, or CT scans will help identify underlying causes of nerve compression such as herniated discs or bone spurs.
  • Nerve Conduction Studies (NCS) – The NCS helps measure electrical nerve impulses and nerve responses. It is conducted by placing electrodes on the skin. As the current passes through these electrodes, it records nerve responses to each stimulation.
  • Electromyography (EMG) – EMG is a diagnostic procedure that requires insertion of needle electrodes through the skin into various muscles. This helps measure the electrical activity of the nerves and the muscles, helping pick up signs and degree of the nerve damage.
  • Blood Tests – Conditions like diabetes and thyroid problems are ruled out using blood test reports.
  • High-Resolution Ultrasound. – These are high-frequency sound waves that produce images of structures within the body. The results are used to diagnose nerve compression syndromes, especially carpal tunnel syndrome, a pinched nerve in wrist.

Pinched Nerve Treatment

The pinched nerve treatment will depend upon the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. Mild cases of a pinched nerve may be self-limiting and may get resolved on their own with rest and self-care measures. However, more severe cases require medical intervention to avoid long-term damage.The most common pinched nerve treatment options are:

  • Rest – Giving adequate rest to the affected area and avoiding activities that worsen the symptoms is the key. This reduces site inflammation and promotes healing.
  • Physical Therapy – Exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscle in the affected area can help relieve pressure on the afflicted nerves. But physical therapy must be done under a trained practitioner to avoid any further damage.
  • Pain Relievers – Over-the-counter pain medication like Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. However, some people may require prescription drugs like Anticonvulsants, tricyclic medications, or Corticosteroids either in the form of injections or oral drugs to minimise pain and inflammation.
  • Surgery – In patients where conservative treatment is not effective, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure on the affected nerve. The type of surgery will depend upon the location of the pinched nerve.


A pinched nerve occurs when a nerve gets compressed. It is marked by a range of symptoms, including pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the affected area. While the neck and the lumbar spine are the most common sites of a pinched nerve, the nerve compression can occur anywhere in the body. The most pronounced pinched nerve causes are injury, poor posture, repetitive activities, obesity, and underlying medical conditions. 

A typical pinched nerve diagnosis will include a physical exam followed by a few supporting tests. The pinched nerve treatment will however depend upon the severity of symptoms and site of nerve damage. It is important to seek medical attention promptly as early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent long-term damage and improve overall prognosis. With proper treatment and self-care measures, one can bounce back quickly.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pinched Nerve

The most common pinched nerve symptoms are pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the affected area.

Pinched nerves are treatable. With effective treatment, the symptoms can resolve completely. However, taking proper medical advice and treatment is important to avoid long-term, permanent damage.

A pinched nerve is typically caused due to injury, poor posture, repetitive motions, arthritis, obesity, herniated discs, and bone spurs. In rare cases, there may be no clear trigger.

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