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What Are Pinched Spinal Nerves?

Many people correctly associate pinched spinal nerves with neck and back pain. But, what is really going on? The spinal nerves, which branch out from the spinal cord, transmit sensory information and movement instructions between the brain and the rest of the body. If a nerve becomes pinched (compressed), its normal function may be disrupted.

How does a spinal nerve become pinched?

The spinal nerves exit the spinal cord through small openings between vertebrae (foramina). The foramina are situated very close to other spinal structures, including discs, ligaments and facet joints. Any of these structures can potentially press on a nerve, pinching it and producing symptoms. For instance, some common sources of pinched spinal nerves include:

  • Bulging discs
  • Herniated discs
  • Inflamed facet joints
  • Thickened spinal ligaments
  • Spinal bone spurs
  • Fractured vertebrae
  • Spinal tumors

What are the symptoms of a pinched spinal nerve?

In addition to localized neck or back pain, pinched spinal nerves can produce a number of other uncomfortable symptoms. For instance, muscle weakness, numbness, tingling and burning sensations may radiate from the spine and travel down an arm or leg. These symptoms are collectively known as radiculopathy. One common type of radiculopathy is sciatica, which affects the lower body and occurs when the large sciatic nerve becomes compressed.

How are pinched nerves treated?

For mild to moderate discomfort, conservative therapies such as medications and physical therapy can be helpful. While surgery is also a treatment option in some cases, it is usually not considered unless the pain is debilitating.

At Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, TX, we offer a comprehensive range of treatment options — both conservative and surgical — for pinched spinal nerves. Our spine specialists can evaluate your diagnosis and make an individualized recommendation for you. Contact us to schedule a consultation at one of our offices in the Houston, Texas, area today.