Many people use the term “pinched nerve” when talking about their neck or back pain. But what does it mean? Here is a general explanation from the spine specialists at Premier Bone & Joint Centers in Cheyenne, Wyoming:
A nerve is said to be “pinched” when it becomes pressured by surrounding tissues, such as bones, cartilage, muscles, or tendons. In the spinal column, a series of sensitive nerve roots branch away from the spinal cord to transmit sensory information between the brain and the rest of the body. If a spinal nerve root becomes compressed, its normal function may be disrupted, and it also may generate erroneous signals. In addition to neck or back pain, a pinched nerve can cause muscle weakness, numbness, and tingling sensations that travel down an arm or leg (radiculopathy). A common type of radiculopathy is sciatica, which affects the lower body and occurs when the large sciatic nerve is pinched.
How Does a Spinal Nerve Root Become Pinched?
To exit the spinal cord, a nerve root must pass through tiny openings in the vertebrae (foramina). The space within the spinal canal is limited, and the foramina are close to many spinal structures, such as discs, ligaments, and joints. If one of these elements shifts even slightly out of its normal position, it can press on or pinch a nerve root. Common sources of pinched nerves include:
- Bulging discs
- Herniated discs
- Thickened spinal ligaments
- Spinal bone spurs (osteophytes)
- Inflamed facet joints
- Vertebral fractures
How Can a Pinched Spinal Nerve Be Treated?
If your discomfort is mild to moderate, you may find the relief you need with conservative therapies, such as medications and physical therapy. Although spine surgery is also a treatment option for a pinched nerve in certain cases, it is usually not considered unless the pain is debilitating or a medical emergency is present, such as a loss of bladder or bowel control.
At Premier Bone & Joints Centers, we offer a comprehensive range of treatment options—both conservative and surgical—for pinched nerves. Contact us today to request an appointment with a spine doctor at our satellite clinic in Cheyenne, WY.