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pinched spinal nerve

Understanding a Pinched Spinal Nerve: Causes and Treatments

Nearly everyone has heard the term “pinched nerve” and this condition affects nearly all patient populations. However, many may not be aware of what causes this condition or how it is treated. 

A pinched spinal nerve usually occurs in the cervical (neck) or lumbar (lower back) regions of the spine.

To learn more about what a pinched vertebral nerve actually is, it is important that we go over some related spinal anatomy.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, we highly suggest contacting one of our awarded Orthopedic Spine Specialists at any of our 5 Fairfield County, CT locations.

Related Anatomy

The spine is divided into four regions: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacrum. The vertebrae of each region are uniquely shaped and when the spine is healthy and anatomical, the vertebrae perfectly align to form the spinal canal—a narrow opening that allows the spinal cord to travel from the brain to the lumbar and sacral region. As the cord travels down the canal, it branches out to supply the organs and muscles of the body with nervous system functions. The tiny openings through which the spinal cord nerve branches exit the spinal canal are called intervertebral foramen.


Causes of a Pinched Spinal Nerve

The term pinched nerve refers to a compression of one these nerves or never branches. The condition is most often caused by the following medical diseases/conditions:

  1. The wear and tear of soft tissue and bone with age.
  2. Spinal stenosis. The narrowing of the spinal canal.
  3. Degenerative disc disease. The weakening of the intervertebral discs that facilitate movement and act as shock absorbers between adjacent vertebrae.
  4. Herniated disc. The expulsion of an injured intervertebral disc into the spinal canal.
  5. Vertebral fracture. The fracture of a portion of a vertebra.

Once one of our spine specialists has identified the cause of a pinched nerve, they can develop an effective treatment plan based on your unique lifestyle and the severity of your symptoms.


Symptoms and Treatment of a Pinched Nerve

The most common symptoms of a pinched nerve include localized pain in the neck or lower back and/or weakness, numbness or tingling in extremities. An effective treatment plan is one that significantly reduces or eliminates symptoms. The following are some commonly prescribed nonsurgical treatment options:


  1. Activity modification. Slowing down or stopping activities that cause symptoms and promoting pain free mobility.
  2. Physical Therapy – By strengthening the surrounding back and neck muscles, the pressure on the nerve can be minimized.
  3. Chiropractic Care and Treatment – A combination of active movement and hands on treatment will be able to provide symptom relief and return to function.
  4. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Over-the-counter and prescription medications that decrease nerve inflammation and pain.
  5. Pain and anti-inflammatory medications are administered via injection for fast-acting symptom relief.

When nonsurgical treatment options do not improve symptoms, our Orthopedic Spine Specialist may recommend a minimally invasive surgical procedure. The following spine surgeries are commonly performed:

-Portions of a disc that are pinching a nerve are removed.

-Decompression – Direct opening of the canal where the nerve travels.

-Disc replacement surgery. A diseased or damaged disc is removed and then replaced.

The benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery include less time in surgery, less postoperative recovery time, a quicker return to normal activities, and minimal scarring.


Seeking Treatment for a Pinched Nerve

Patients who are experiencing the symptoms of a pinched nerve are encouraged to contact any of our 5 Fairfield County offices and make an appointment with one of our Spine Specialists. The road to complete symptom relief starts when you walk through our doors.