Back Pain Causes and Treatments – #3 Pinched Nerve

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In our previous article in this series of article on back pain causes and treatments, we have talked about back strains/sprains and back bone conditions. In this article we will talk about the possible causes and appropriate treatments of a pinched nerve.

Pinched Nerve! What and how?

A “pinched nerve” is the name given to the uncomfortable sensation, pain, or numbness caused when increased pressure leads to irritation or damage to a peripheral nerve (A peripheral nerve is one that is outside the brain and spinal cord.).

Nerve compression often occurs when the nerve is pressed between tissues such as: Ligament, tendon, bone.  For example, inflammation or pressure on a nerve root exiting the spine may cause neck or low back pain. It may also cause pain to radiate from the neck into the shoulder and arm (cervical radiculopathy). Or pain may radiate into the leg and foot (lumbar radiculopathy or sciatic nerve pain).

Treatments For a Pinched Nerve

First of all, you should consult your doctor to know the exact cause, severity and proper treatment.  Here’s a few common treatments that your doctor might recommend depending on your particular situation:

Rest: The most frequently recommended treatment for pinched nerve is rest. Resting the affected area is often very effective, especially in cases of injury caused by repetitive activities.  Your doctor will ask you to stop any activities that cause or aggravate the compression.  Depending on the location of the pinched nerve, you may need a splint or brace to immobilize the area.

Physical therapy: It is frequently beneficial when a pinched nerve is caused by problems in the neck or low back. Exercises may strengthen the back or core muscles and decrease or eliminate pressure on a nerve root.  A physical therapist can teach you exercises that strengthen and stretch the muscles in the affected area to relieve pressure on the nerve.  See more stretch and strengthen exercises for back pain in our previous article.

Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), can help relieve pain and alleviate inflammation around the nerve.

Injections:  Injections of corticosteroids (an anti-inflammatory medication) may also be beneficial for many types of pinched nerves.

Weight loss: Weight loss can be of benefit for many types of pinched nerves, this means you need to watch your weight.

Surgery:  The last option is surgery in order to release pressure on the nerve if it fails to respond to medication, splinting, physical therapy, or injections. The specific type of surgery depends upon the nerve involved. However, the goal of the surgery is the same, to eliminate or relieve the pressure on the affected nerve.

Finally, there are also other alternative treatments that can be quite effective, such as acupuncture or hot/cold therapy that we will cover in details in a future article!

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2 Responses

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