Is a Pinched Nerve Serious?

Is a Pinched Nerve Serious?

Pinched nerves occur when nerves in the body are compressed by surrounding tissues. Most commonly, nerves become pinched in the back and the neck.

Nerves can get pinched due to localized trauma, degenerative diseases, repetitive movements (whether from work, hobbies, or sports), or obesity. 

Pinched nerves can also occur in sedentary individuals. For example, office workers who spend many hours sitting can develop a pinched nerve in their lower back, as they put too much pressure on their back for prolonged periods. Alternating between sitting and standing when working can relieve pressure on the spine and nerves. 

We asked Dr. Bonaventure Ngu, our expert at Premier Spine Institute, to explain how pinched nerve sufferers can relieve their symptoms at home and when pinched nerves could be a sign of something more serious. 

Pinched nerve symptoms 

The most common symptom of a pinched nerve is pain. However, you may also notice a pins-and-needles sensation, muscle weakness, or a loss of sensation in the affected areas. 

The symptoms may radiate. For example, if you have a pinched nerve in your lower back, you may experience muscle weakness in your upper leg. 

Homecare tips for pinched nerves

Most cases of pinched nerves are manageable from home with a few easy steps, including ice and heat packs, stretches, rest, and lifestyle changes. 

Ice packs can reduce the inflammation in the area and dull the pain. Once the inflammation has been reduced, switch to heat packs to increase blood flow in the tissues surrounding the nerves. Blood carries nutrients and growth factors that speed up healing. 

Stretches help move the nerve back to its original position and provide relief. For example, if you have a pinched nerve in your back, stretching that area may ease the compression. 

Because your body heals when you sleep, you may need some extra sleep to accelerate the healing process. And if you find that certain activities worsen your symptoms, try to limit those activities until you heal. 

When a pinched nerve becomes serious

Pinched nerves usually get better in three to four days. However, if home care doesn’t seem to help, you may need to see a medical expert. 

If the pressure on the nerve isn’t relieved in a short amount of time, the nerve damage may become permanent, causing chronic pain and muscle weakness. One example of progressive nerve damage is cauda equina syndrome, a severe complication of pinched nerves at the base of the spinal cord. The condition can cause incontinence and lifelong disability if left untreated.

Depending on your diagnosis and symptoms, Dr. Ngu may recommend medications, injections, physical therapy, or surgery. However, it’s better to prevent complications and get quick relief by scheduling an appointment at one of our offices in The Woodlands, Humble, and Baytown, Texas. 

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