Pinched nerve

Man holding back or hip in pain

​The nerves in the spinal cord travel through small openings between the vertebrae and out to other parts of the body. If these small openings are blocked, the nerves become irritated and cause radiating pain. 

A pinched nerve (radiculopathy) in your back or neck is often caused by a herniated disc, a bone spur, or other conditions that affect the nerve’s passageway. 

Pinched nerve symptoms

A pinched nerve in the back may cause:

  • Low back pain

  • Numbness or tingling in the leg or foot

  • Pain radiating down one or both legs

  • Pain that radiates all the way to the foot

  • Weakness in the leg or foot

Pinched nerves in the neck cause: 

  • Neck pain

  • Numbness or a “pins and needles” sensation in the arm 

  • Pain in the arm or shoulder

  • Pain that worsens as you move your neck or head 

  • Weakness in the arm

Pinched nerve diagnosis

Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following tests:

  • CT scans—a type of specialized X-ray that creates cross-sectional images of the spine.

  • MRI scans—a test to visualize the spinal nerves.

  • Electromyography/nerve conduction study (EMG/NCV)—measures the electrical impulses the nerves are sending, which can determine if you have a damaged nerve.

  • X-rays— a test that produces an image of the spine. 

Pinched nerve treatment 

A pinched nerve is typically treated using non-surgical methods. These include:

  • Epidural steroid injections—shots that relieve pain and inflammation in the spine at the region of the pinched nerve.

  • Medications—such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

  • Physical therapy—exercises designed to help you regain strength and range of motion in the back or neck.

  • Surgery—may be required if conservative treatments are unsuccessful or if the pain or loss or movement is too extreme to delay treatment. Foraminotomy is a decompression surgery that increases the space in the nerve passageway. Laminectomy/laminotomy is a surgical procedure that relieves pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerve roots by widening of the spinal canal.

At The Christ Hospital Health Network, our spine specialists are experts at relieving the chronic pain of a pinched nerve.

Find a back (spine) and neck specialist near you.