Pinched Nerve Overview

A pinched nerve occurs when excessive pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues like bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons. When this pressure is great enough it will disrupt or disturb the function of the nerve and result in pain, tingling, numbness or weakness.

A pinched nerve can occur at several sites in your body. A herniated disk in your lower spine, for example, may put pressure on a nerve root, causing pain that radiates down the back of your leg. A pinched nerve in your wrist can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome which causes pain and numbness in your hand and fingers.

With rest and other conservative treatments, most people recover from a pinched nerve within a few days or weeks. If a nerve is pinched for only a short time, there’s usually no permanent damage; nerve function often returns to normal once the pressure is relieved. However, if a nerve remains pinched for a long time it can result in chronic pain and permanent nerve damage. Sometimes, minimally invasive surgery is needed to relieve pain from a pinched nerve.

Pinched nerve signs and symptoms include:

  • Numbness or decreased sensation in the area supplied by the nerve
  • Sharp, aching or burning pain, which may radiate outward
  • Tingling, “pins and needles” sensations (paresthesia)
  • Muscle weakness in the affected area
  • Frequent feeling that a foot or hand has “fallen asleep”

The problems related to a pinched nerve may be worse when you’re sleeping. If you think you may have a pinched nerve, we encourage you review our symptoms section.

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