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pinched nerve Archives - Atlanta Spine Clinic


Conyers office - Get directions

Decatur office- Get directions

Surgery Center - Get directions

McDonough office: - Get directions

Sandy Springs office: - Get directions

Make an Appointment

Or call: 678-369-6934

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How Do You Know If You Have a Pinched Nerve?

When compressed, nerves send signals to the brain that could result in pain. “Compressed” nerves are more commonly known as pinched nerves. It only takes a slight change in the configuration of your nerves to cause a significant amount of pain or discomfort.

If you find yourself in sudden pain or discomfort, especially if this pain radiates down a limb, it’s possible that you’re suffering from this issue. 

But how do you know?

We’ve put together a guide covering what a pinched nerve is, how to know if you have one, and what your treatment options are. If you are in severe pain, or find that your symptoms don’t resolve within 2-3 weeks, we recommend seeking medical treatment. 

What Is a Pinched Nerve? 

A pinched nerve refers to any nerve that is under pressure. In the spine, nerve roots run through the vertebral column, and are surrounded by bone, cartilage, and soft tissue. Small changes in surrounding tissue can be enough to put pressure on the nerve and cause significant pain and discomfort. 

The nerves of your limbs (for example, your median nerve in your wrist) can also become pinched by local changes to the tissue, such as inflammation and swelling of the connective tissue. This is commonly referred to as carpal tunnel syndrome, and often results from repetitive work such as typing. 

Common Sites Where Nerves Can Become Compressed

Pinched nerves can occur anywhere in the body. 

The problem with a pinched nerve is that the pain or discomfort you feel will most likely not be where the nerve is actually under pressure. For example, if the impacted nerve is in your lumbar back area, it can send a false signal to the brain that your hip or leg is in pain. 

Most pinched nerves originate in the neck (cervical spine), upper middle back (thoracic spine), or lower back (lumbar region). Pinched nerves also commonly occur in the hand, elbow, and wrist. 

Signs and Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve

Some pinched nerves are chronic, and may worsen over time, while other pinched nerves occur suddenly, such as due to an injury or sudden herniation of a disc. This means that you could notice a gradual increase in pain and symptoms in the affected area, or that the onset of pain and symptoms could be sudden.

In general, a pinched nerve causes the following symptoms in the affected area: 

  • Muscle stiffness or weakness
  • Sore muscles 
  • Sharp, aching, or burning pain that could radiate down a limb or part of a limb
  • Tingling and numbness, which could radiate down the limb

The origin of the pinched nerve will determine the location of the pain and some of the symptoms: 

  • Cervical Spine: The pain could be in your neck, shoulder, or arm, and could radiate down the arm into the fingers. You could also have a stiff neck, and the pain and numbness could affect the arm and shoulder.
  • Thoracic spine: The pain could be localized to your chest. However, with chest pain, it’s always best to call a healthcare provider or go to your nearest emergency room, as this could also be due to a heart attack or underlying cardiac condition.
  • Lumbar spine: Pain in the back, hips, buttocks, and legs. You could also experience soreness and stiffness in these regions.
  • Median nerve: Pain or numbness and weakness in the fingers, hand, and elbow. The pain does not generally radiate further up the arm, and is not accompanied by neck soreness or stiffness. 

What Causes a Nerve to Become Compressed

In general, the symptoms of a pinched nerve are due to pressure that is placed on a nerve root in the spine or radiating nerve in the limbs, such as in the carpal tunnel. This can occur after even slight changes in the surrounding bone and cartilage tissue. 

Pinched nerves are frequently caused by one or more of the below contributing factors: 

  • Rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory conditions
  • Normal aging that can cause spinal discs to flatten
  • Sudden accident or injury that causes a herniated disc, which collapses to place pressure on the nerve
  • Repetitive motion tasks, especially for compression of the median nerve
  • Diabetes, which can damage the nerves
  • Obesity or pregnancy, in which excess weight can compress nerves

Resolution and Treatment Options for a Pinched Nerve

In some cases, a pinched nerve can resolve on its own. The following at-home treatments can help:

  • Cold compresses in the affected area (i.e. the source of nerve compression; for example, the affected region of the spine)
  • Warm compresses to relieve muscle stiffness
  • Over-the-counter pain relief
  • Rest 

Again, if the pinched nerve does not resolve on its own in 2-3 weeks, or if the pain you’re experiencing is severe or debilitating, seek help from a medical professional.

At Atlanta Spine, we can identify the root cause of your pinched nerve and develop a treatment plan to relieve the pain and symptoms, as well as to realign your spine to prevent additional pinched nerves in the future. 

Depending on the cause of your pinched nerve, a variety of treatment options can be used: 

  • Pelvic alignment and core stabilization
  • Physical therapy
  • Prescribed home exercises and stretching
  • Ruptured or herniated disc treatment
  • Minimally invasive surgical approaches
  • Steroid injections to relieve inflammation and swelling at the site of injury
  • Disc replacement

The right course of treatment for your pinched nerve will depend on its root causes, and the severity of your injury. Schedule a consultation with Atlanta Spine Clinic to assess your pinched nerve and develop a treatment plan.

Worried You Have a Pinched Nerve in Your Back? What You Need to Know

Pinched nerves can occur in nearly any part of the human body. It is the term used to describe when compression — too much pressure — is placed on any nerve by the bodily tissues surrounding it.

Sometimes the tissue is swollen muscles or tendons; other times it is pressure from bone or cartilage tissues. Carpal tunnel syndrome, for instance, involves a pinched nerve in the hand or wrist due to swollen tendons, enlarged bone tissue, or degenerated ligaments.

Below, we’re going to cover the causes and symptoms of pinched nerves to help you determine whether this is a problem you are experiencing. Then we’ll share some of the most common at-home, in-office, and surgical treatment options.

Causes of a Pinched Nerve in Your Back

Typically when we envision the onset of a pinched nerve in our back, it’s easy to conjure images of a quick throw-out — you bend over and suddenly can’t get up. While sudden compression can occur from trauma or injury, more often we see a more gradual compression over time. 


Stenosis is a narrowing of the nerve passages in the spine caused by a bony overgrowth or bone spurs. A narrowed central canal is known as central stenosis, and spaces where spinal nerves exit from the main canal that has become narrow are classified as foraminal or lateral stenosis.


The largest bundle of nerves outside the central spinal canal is known as your sciatica. It originates in the pelvis and travels down the leg. It is made up of multiple spinal nerves. Issues arise from the nerve being pinched by the piriformis muscle (located behind the larger glute in your buttock) which is responsible for hip rotation and your ability to turn your legs and feet outward.

Herniated Disc

When normal wear and tear create defects to the body parts that protect your vertebrae, many times it leads to bulging and herniated discs. Herniation can bring about pain when nerves become trapped from bulging or torn disc sacs. 

Arthritis in the Spine

As with arthritis in other areas of the body, the condition can cause swelling, which in turn can render your spinal nerves compressed and aching. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a particularly common form that affects the back. 

Through the natural process of aging, there are a number of conditions that can develop due to changes and degeneration in bone and tissue structures and positioning. For this reason, we see most pinched nerves first appear among people between 30 and 50. 

Symptoms aren’t always debilitating when they first become noticeable, however. 

Sure Signs and Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve in Your Back

Our bodies are incredibly adaptable to change — and pain — as we age. Because of this, we don’t always initially recognize the symptoms of pinched or compressed spinal nerves. 

That being said, when you pay attention to your body and understand the symptoms of compression, you are more likely to identify (and treat) a pinched nerve before you ever reach the point of throwing out your back.

Some of the sensations you should be on the lookout for include the following: 

  • Sharp pain (or burning or aching) or a pins-and-needles sensation anywhere in the body. When it occurs from the waist down, this is likely a sign of sciatica problems.
  • Sharp pain and muscle spasms can also signal a pinched nerve in the area just above where you’re noticing the symptoms. 
  • Muscle weakness, balance issues, or diminished reflexes can also indicate nerve compression in the area. 

Note that pinched nerve-related problems typically worsen while sleeping. Also remember, the longer you wait to address a potential problem with a pinched nerve, the more difficult it becomes to ensure no long-term damage.

When you initially begin to notice symptoms consistent with a pinched nerve, there are a number of ways you can address it right at home. 

Pain Relief at Home for a Pinched Back Nerve

While the Atlanta Spine Clinic always recommends consulting with your doctor about any plan for self-care you might be considering, there are a number of things you can do on your own early on. 

Move Your Body

As with anything related to maintaining your good health, exercise is often key to recovering from a pinched nerve. Depending on the cause of compression, certain exercises may be better than others. But generally, a prescribed routine of moderate exercises like walking and light strength training can help. Exercise is known to reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and decompress those joints and passages surrounding your nerves.

Make Time for the Yoga Mat

There are a number of specific stretches that provide known benefits for various pinched nerves along the spine. This one is very important to discuss with your doctor since improper stretching can actually worsen symptoms. The most commonly employed techniques include deep stretches of the hamstrings and glutes.   

Modify Your Sleep Positions

Another issue that often exacerbates a pinched nerve situation is the way that you sleep. Your position may aggravate nerve pain symptoms. Talk with your doctor about proper sleeping positions, and what kind of aids might assist with reducing your discomfort. It may be as simple as positioning a pillow between or under your legs.

Properly Recuperate

Certain activities and some seated positions can actually increase nerve pain. When you talk to your doctor about in-home treatment options, he or she may recommend a few days rest to reduce your symptoms. Often the application of ice and heat packs in 20-minute intervals can help alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and eliminate muscle spasms.

Seeing Your Doctor About a Pinched Nerve in Your Back

Should at-home treatment methods prove ineffective in relieving your pain, consider heading in to see your doctor about the situation. When symptoms seem to persist to a point that they interfere with your day-to-day routine, or it’s been more than a few days dealing with the same issues, set an appointment. 

There are a number of treatment options your doctor may be able to offer after diagnosing a pinched nerve in your back. Generally, a pinched nerve treatment plan consists of a combination of base-level treatments. When those don’t provide ample relief, more aggressive options may be presented. 

Noninvasive, Low-Level Treatment Options Are Available

Often, noninvasive, low-level treatment options are enough to relieve pinched nerve symptoms. Anti-inflammatory medications that don’t involve steroids can usually help reduce swelling of muscle tissue and tendons that may be compressing your nerves.  

Steroid Injections Are Minimally Invasive

When symptoms persist, your doctor may suggest epidural treatments in which steroids are injected into an affected area to reduce swelling for extended periods of time. These injections can often happen right there in your doctor’s office without extended recovery time.

Surgical Procedures to Alleviate Pinched Back Nerves

As a last resort, your spine doctor may recommend a minimally invasive surgical procedure to help correct a pinched nerve in your back. The exact procedure will depend on the root cause of the pinch. For instance, a microdiscectomy calls for a small incision in the back to correct a herniated disc.

Ultimately, in many cases, having a pinched nerve is a temporary condition. Once the cause is removed, pressure dissipates, and usually the previously affected nerve returns to normal functioning.  

When your condition goes unaddressed, however, both chronic pain and permanent nerve damage are likely to occur. So if you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of a pinched nerve in your back, it is always best to err on the side of caution and have the issue checked out.