What is a Pinched Nerve?
A pinched nerve refers to a specific type of trauma that affects a single nerve or an entire set of nerves. Pinched spinal nerves are most commonly the result of binding, compression, pulling or hyperextension, and can present themselves in a variety of ways. Surrounding tissue, bones, muscles or cartilage can place an overwhelming amount of pressure on sensitive nerves, causing a compression experienced as pain.
A pinched or trapped nerve will usually result in burning or tearing pain, numbness, or tingling in the area affected. The pain associated with pinched spinal nerves can range from mild to severe and may be either temporary or permanent, depending on the degree of the injury.
Symptoms of Pinched Nerves
Also known as a trapped nerve, pinched nerves located in the lower part of the back can result in debilitating pain and the inability to continue functioning. Symptoms of a pinched nerve in lower back areas include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Tingling sensation in lower back, buttocks and legs
- Numbness or "pins and needles" sensation in lower back, buttocks and legs
- Sharp or "electric shock" sensation in area surrounding injury
- Radiating pain in lower back
- Numbness and tingling sensation in ankles and/or feet
- Weakness in the hip area, legs and feet
- Shooting or throbbing pain in lower back
If the pain in the lower back is noticeably aggravated by sudden movements, such as those caused by coughing, sneezing or laughing, the cause of the pain may be a pinched nerve very close to the spinal cord. These nerves in particular, when compressed by a bulging disc or other injury, may cause severe pain that does not subside with time or the use of anti-inflammatory medications.
Causes of a Pinched Nerve
A pinched nerve is most commonly the result of an injury suffered during strenuous work or physically demanding athletic activity. These injuries can include a herniated disc, strained muscle, compression fracture or inflammation exacerbated by pre-existing arthritis.
Stretching and proper lifting techniques can help to prevent the injuries that most frequently result in pinched nerve pain. If pinched nerve symptoms are detected early and the injury is evaluated by a medical professional before further damage is sustained, the issue may be effectively managed with a treatment plan that specifically targets spinal nerve pain.
To reduce your risk of pinching a nerve in your lower back, avoid lifting objects that are too heavy or ask for assistance in lifting them. Bend your knees and utilize muscles in the thighs and buttocks to provide your back with adequate support before lifting.
Before engaging in strenuous activity at work or while playing sports, stretch the muscles in your lower back to avoid potential nerve, muscle or tendon injury. Because many pinched nerve injuries result from inadequate support or the hyperextension of weak muscles, wearing a supportive lower back brace or abdominal binder can help as well.
Treatments for Pinched Nerves
Pinched nerve treatment options may include the following:
- Chiropractor: A chiropractor can assess your pain level, your lifestyle and your level of nutrition, as these factors will help him to determine which treatment plan is best for you. Massage and other types of physical therapy may be utilized to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Ice and Heat Therapy: Cold compresses, ice, hot towels and heating pads can all be used to reduce pain and inflammation caused by a pinched nerve. These treatments are most effective when the pinched nerve pain is associated with muscle strain or tear.
- Medication: Over the counter medications, such as ibuprofen, help reduce inflammation and relieve pressure on pinched nerves in the lower back. Prescription drugs, such as muscle relaxants, may be helpful in treating compressed nerve pain while the injury itself is allowed to heal.
If you are suffering from pinched nerve symptoms, talk to your doctor about targeted pain management and pinched nerve treatment. The type of treatment prescribed by your doctor will vary depending on the severity of the injury and the specific cause of the compressed nerve.