You may feel pain in your back or neck and shrug it off as a pulled muscle or due to sleeping with your neck in the wrong position. But then the pain doesn’t go away, or it gets worse. You may even feel a tingling sensation. Suddenly you realize you may have a pinched nerve and the questions begin.
Are pinched nerves a serious problem? When do you need to see a doctor? What should you do to take care of yourself?
As a specialist in treating pinched nerves, Richard B. Kim, MD, is here to help. Let’s cover the basics about pinched nerves, what you should do, and when to see a doctor. But if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call our office or book an appointment online.
A spinal injury can cause a pinched nerve, but you’re more likely to develop the problem from degenerative conditions such as:
These conditions pinch nerves when they protrude into the spinal canal or the small openings between vertebrae where nerves enter and exit the spinal cord.
We already mentioned the top symptoms of a pinched nerve -- pain and tingling or a pins-and-needles sensation. You’ll have back pain or neck pain, depending on the location of the pinched nerve. The pain is often sharp, but you could also feel an aching or burning type of pain.
When a spinal nerve is irritated, inflamed, or damaged, your symptoms can travel along the nerve. You may experience pain and tingling that radiate down an arm or leg.
Sciatica is one of the best-known examples of a pinched nerve. When the sciatic nerve is compressed, most people experience an intense, electric-shock pain that shoots down one leg.
When the nerve is severely damaged, the affected limb can get numb, or the muscles may weaken. If that happens you may notice that your grip is weak or that your foot tends to drop down when you walk.
If your pain just started and is mild, you can wait a few days before scheduling an appointment for a medical exam. During this time, you should rest and avoid activities that make the pain worse.
You can also take over-the-counter medications that relieve the pain and reduce inflammation, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. In some cases, alternating between ice and heat relieves the inflammation and pain.
Pinched nerves often heal with conservative care, but if the condition that’s causing the problem doesn’t improve, you can end up with permanent damage to the nerve.
You should see the doctor when:
Any time you’re concerned about your symptoms, don’t waste time worrying. Just call Richard B. Kim, MD.