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Causes and Risk Factors

Pinched nerves may occur due to various factors, including injury, overuse, and certain medical conditions. Some common causes and risk factors include:

  • Herniated or bulging discs in the spine pressing on a nerve
  • Bone spurs caused by spinal arthritis
  • Repetitive motions or overuse leading to muscle or tendon inflammation
  • Obesity, which can increase pressure on nerves
  • Activities or jobs that require repetitive hand, wrist, or shoulder movements
  • Conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or thyroid disease
  • Prolonged sitting or poor posture


Symptoms of a pinched nerve can vary based on the nerve’s location but typically include:

  • Numbness or decreased sensation in the area served by the nerve
  • Sharp or burning pain, which may radiate outward
  • Tingling, ‘pins and needles’ sensations (paresthesia)
  • Muscle weakness in the affected area

Diagnosing a Pinched Nerve

Diagnosing a pinched nerve starts with a comprehensive medical history and physical examination to identify pain points and assess reflexes and muscle strength. Imaging tests like MRI, CT scans, or X-rays are used to visualize the spine and identify areas of nerve compression. In addition, ultrasound testing may be used to evaluate soft tissues and bones surrounding the nerve. Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (NCS) are also helpful in diagnosing a pinched nerve by measuring electrical activity in the muscles.

Treatment Options

Conservative Care

Conservative treatments for a pinched nerve focus on relieving pressure and alleviating symptoms. These include:

  • Physical therapy to strengthen muscles and improve posture
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief
  • Lifestyle changes, such as weight management and ergonomic adjustments
  • Rest and activity modifications to alleviate symptoms
  • Heat or ice therapy
  • Bracing or splinting to stabilize the affected area

Surgical Treatment

Surgery for a pinched nerve is considered when conservative treatments fail to provide relief or if the nerve compression is severe. Surgical procedures vary based on the nerve’s location and the underlying cause but typically aim to relieve pressure on the nerve. This may involve removing bone spurs, repairing herniated discs, or other methods to alleviate compression.

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