A pinched nerve occurs when there is compression or too much pressure applied to a nerve by the tissues surrounding it. This happens between tissues such as bone, tendons, muscle, cartilage, and ligaments. Nerves are most vulnerable in areas where they travel through narrow spaces but have little soft tissue to protect them. A pinched nerve can occur at a number of sites in the body and cause varying symptoms. Damage from a pinched nerve may be minor or severe. It may cause temporary or long lasting problems. If a nerve is pinched for only a short time, there is usually no permanent damage. Once pressure is relieved, nerve function is restored and can return to normal. If nerve compression continues, chronic pain and permanent nerve damage can occur. In some cases nerve damage can’t be reversed from a pinched nerve.
A pinched nerve can happen in a number of ways. Repetitive motions, hobbies or sports activities, arthritis, disc herniations, obesity, holding your body in one position for an extended amount of time, and injuries or traumas are all causes of a pinched nerve.
Signs and symptoms of a pinched nerve include:
- Sharp, aching, or burning pain
- Localized pain such as in the neck or lower back
- Radiating pain, such as sciatica, leg pain, or arm pain
- Tingling, burning, or a pins and needles sensation
- Numbness or decreased sensation in the area supplied by the nerve
- Muscle weakness in the affected area
Symptoms can worsen with activity or certain movements such as turning your head or lifting your leg. In less severe cases symptoms may resolve with rest or avoiding any activities that tend to worsen your symptoms.