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Learn how a pinched nerve can develop in the spine and how it can be treated

Living with a pinched nerve is uncomfortable and sometimes devastating to your quality of life. Commonly caused by degenerative and injury-related conditions, pinched nerves can occur at any level of the spine. If not treated in a timely manner, lasting damage and irreversible pain can result.

Pinched nerve causes

Generally, a pinched nerve in the spine occurs when surrounding tissues put too much pressure on the spinal cord or a nerve root. In the spine, this is often caused by a bulging or herniated disc, which compromises the spine’s cushioning system and allows bone or cartilage to compress a nerve root. A pinched nerve also can be caused by a bone spur or other bone abnormalities, such as spondylolisthesis. Spinal stenosis, which refers to a narrowing of the spinal canal, can lead to a pinched nerve as well.

Pinched nerve symptoms

A number of symptoms are commonly associated with pinched nerves, including:

  • Burning sensation
  • Numbness in arms or legs
  • Tingling in arms or legs
  • Pain in arms or legs
  • Cramping of muscles
  • Shooting pain
  • Weakness

If you are suffering from these or similar symptoms, we know your main priority is finding relief. Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive spine surgery to treat pinched nerves.

Diagnosis of a pinched nerve

To arrive at a diagnosis of a pinched nerve, a physician will start by reviewing your medical history, documenting your symptoms and performing a physical exam. The exam will likely include some targeted patient movements, such as tilting the head forward and back and turning to each side. The physician will also check for numbness and muscle weakness.

Depending on the results of the physical exam, the physician may order one or more imaging tests, such as X-rays, a CT scan or an MRI. Blood tests and/or an electromyography (EMG), which measures nerve function, may also be prescribed.

Pinched nerve conservative and alternative treatments

Before opting to undergo any type of surgical procedure, most physicians recommend patients try the available conservative treatment options. Sometimes a period of rest, followed by lifestyle changes such as losing weight, practicing good posture and avoiding tobacco use, can be effective. Other conservative treatments include physical therapy, stretching, massage, injections, medication and alternating applications of hot and cold packs.

Some patients find that alternative treatments, such as herbal therapy, chiropractic care and acupuncture, help relieve the discomfort of a pinched nerve.

Surgery for a pinched nerve

Laser Spine Institute offers a minimally invasive alternative to traditional open spine surgery through our outpatient procedures. Performed through an incision smaller than an inch, these procedures are conducted in our outpatient ambulatory surgery centers.

If you are living in pain, do not wait to find relief. Contact Laser Spine Institute today for more information and a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures offered at our St. Louis center.