Sharp, burning, radiating pain in the back, often accompanied by tingling and numbness, could indicate a pinched nerve. Nerves cause symptoms when surrounding tissues compress them, which often happens when a herniated disk pushes on the nearby nerve.
You can experience pinched nerves anywhere on the body, but they’re more likely to develop in the lower back. In the upper spine, a pinched nerve may cause stiffness in the neck and radiating pain in the shoulders and arms.
A nerve pinched in the lower back can cause pain in the lower back, buttocks, and legs. In most cases, pinched nerves go away on their own with over-the-counter pain medication and rest. However, in rare cases, they can worsen, causing permanent nerve damage and chronic pain.
So how can you differentiate between symptoms that are likely to go away and a more serious case? Dr. Bonaventure Ngu — our expert at Premier Spine Institute, with offices in The Woodlands, Humble, and Baytown — is here to help you tell the difference.
How long should you wait for a pinched nerve to get better on its own?
Most people should see an improvement in their pinched nerve in about four to five weeks. In the meantime, pain relievers can make the pain manageable.
If the pain is severe and doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medication, contact Dr. Ngu for guidance and a personalized treatment plan.
Pinched nerves caused by mild trauma or poor posture are more likely to go on their own, but if you suffer from arthritis and experience symptoms, Dr. Ngu can offer long-term relief for your recurring symptoms.
Untreated pinched nerve complications
Cauda equina syndrome (CES) is a rare, potentially life-threatening complication of compressed nerves at the base of the spine. Symptoms include:
- Incontinence of the bladder and bowels
- Loss of feeling in the lower back and buttocks area
- Weakness in the lower back and legs
- Sexual dysfunction
CES may stem from a severely heerniated disc, post-operative complications, a tumor, an infections, traumatic injury, or lumbar spinal stenosis, among other conditions, and it can easily cause serious complications if not surgically treated immediately.
Treatments available for pinched nerves
Dr. Ngu considers your medical history, imaging studies, and the severity of your symptoms when creating a personalized treatment for your pinched nerve.
Pain management options include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), oral corticosteroids, and opiates. For long-term relief, Dr. Ngu may recommend epidural injections.
If you’re sedentary or simply have weak back muscles, Dr. Ngu may also recommend physical therapy to strengthen your back and reduce your risk for injuries. If a herniated disk is causing the compression of the nerve, Dr. Ngu can replace the damaged disk with an artificial one, relieving the pressure on your nerves.
Do you have symptoms that won’t go away on their own or debilitating symptoms that keep you constrained to the couch? Contact us to schedule an appointment and get quick and lasting relief.