Nerves branch out from the brain and spinal cord in our nervous system to carry instructions to every part of the body. The nerves act like electrical wires that carry signals from the brain to the spinal cord and to the organs.
Nerves within the brain and spinal cord are part of our central nervous system. Nerves that extend from the spine to other areas of the body are called peripheral nerves. These peripheral nerves originate as nerve roots. They exit the spinal cord and then branch off to extend throughout our body. These nerves allow various bodily functions to happen. For example, the nerves that travel to muscles allow the muscles to move and nerves that travel to the skin provide it an ability to feel.
A pinched nerve is a nerve under pressure that is a compressed nerve. Often, this pressure is exerted by the surrounding bones or tissues. If the nerve compressed enough that it loses its ability to carry its function (transmit signals properly), it can cause a variety of symptoms in the body. For example, when a nerve is pinched or compressed, it can trigger the nerve to falsely experience pain. The pressure can also reduce ability of a nerve to control the muscles it runs through.
One of the most common places for a pinched nerve to occur is within the spine that is back. This is called compressed nerve in the back or pinching of the nerve in back. Our spinal column is surrounded with nerve roots that innervate areas throughout the body and help control various movements and sensations. These nerve roots are particularly susceptible to being compressed by the surrounding tissues and bones particularly because these nerves are contained within a tightly packed spinal canal.
Often the term "pinched nerve" is used to address the uncomfortable sensation, pain, or numbness caused when increased pressure leads to discomfort or damage to a peripheral nerve.
Although this condition is mostly associated with back pain or a neck injury, but any nerve is susceptible to compression.
The most common symptom of a pinched nerve in back is a tingling sensation. This feeling can occur along with some numbness. It may initially come and go, but over time can become persistent. Other signs and symptoms of pinched nerve in back are:
If the nerve compression lasts a long time, a protective barrier around the nerve may break down. This may cause the fluid to build up. This can cause such as:
The damage caused by the pinched nerve may be minor or severe. Depending on the severity of the damage, a pinched nerve may cause temporary or long-lasting problems.
It is better to get a diagnosis and treatment for the nerve compression earlier. The earlier you treat it, the more quickly you'll find relief. You should not ignore the initial pain and sensations due to pinched nerve. Contact your doctor if the signs and symptoms of a pinched nerve last for a few days and don't respond to self-care, such as rest and over-the-counter pain medicines.
These factors may increase your risk of getting a pinched nerve in the back. It can affect your lower back or upper back based on the actual cause of the problem:
Gender: Women are more likely to develop pinched nerve particularly carpal tunnel syndrome. This may be due to their smaller carpal tunnels.
Bone spurs: Trauma or other conditions that causes bone thickening or bone damage, such as osteoarthritis, can cause bone spurs to develop. Bone spurs can decrease the space where your nerves travel, thereby pinching the nearby nerves. Depending on where the bone spurs develop, you can develop pinched nerve symptoms in lower back or upper back regions.
Thyroid disease: People who have a thyroid disease are at higher risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Diabetes: People who have diabetes are more susceptible to experience nerve pinching.
Other risk factors for pinched nerve in back are:
A pinched nerve can occur in the back when too much pressure (compression) is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues in the back.
This tissue that exerts pressure might be bone or cartilage, such as in the case of a herniated spinal disk that compresses a nerve root in the vertebral column causing sharp back pain. In some cases, muscle or tendons or soft tissues may expert the pressure causing compression of the nerve in your back, which can cause the condition.
There can be a variety of causes for compression of a nerve in the back. Some of the most common of them are:
See also: What is osteoarthritis?
Your doctor will likely make the diagnosis of pinched nerve by collecting history of the symptoms and performing a physical examination. Based on the initial evaluation, he or she might order some tests for further testing as required.
One of the tests that is often used by doctors for the diagnosis of a pinched nerve is electromyography (EMG). It is a nerve conduction study to confirm the diagnosis of a pinched nerve and to determine the extent of nerve damage, if there is any.
Sometimes, MRI or a CT scan or an X ray can be done if the pinched nerve is in the neck (cervical spine) or back (lumbar spine) to perform the diagnosis of the pinched nerve. These tests can also help understand and identify the cause of the pinched nerve such as a bulging disc, arthritis, or fracture etc.
The treatment of a pinched nerve in back depends upon the cause of the compression. In many cases, mere resting the affected area is quite helpful and can cure the problem, particularly when the pain and compression is due to an injury caused by repetitive activities such as sports or exercises.
Physical therapy is also recommended when a pinched nerve is caused by problems in the neck or low back. It is considered an effective pinched nerve therapy.
Exercises may help you build strength in the back or muscles and decrease or eliminate the pressure on a nerve root in the back.
Other possible options for treating a pinched nerve in the back are:
There are certain ways you can try to help prevent the condition. These nerve compression prevention tips are:
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