Pinched Nerves: Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention


Pinched nerves, also called nerve compression, occurs when there is too much pressure on a nerve. It is usually caused by surrounding tissues such as bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons. Nerves are mainly responsible for delivering sensory information from the whole body to the brain and carry movement instruction from the brain to the body.

When the nerves are compressed, people are likely to feel pain, tingling, numbness or weakness. Symptoms of pinched nerves can be mild or severe.

Usually, pinched nerves can happen at several sites in the body such as the lower spine and the wrist. But people with the condition often can recover from the symptoms within a few days or weeks. Only in severe situations surgery will be considered.

In most situations, the symptoms of pinched nerves can be reduced with proper rest and other non-operative treatments. But in some cases, the damage from a pinched nerve can’t be reversed. That is, if you have pinched nerves, you should get an early and definite diagnosis so that the condition does not cause any long-lasting problems.

According to studies, people with carpal tunnel syndrome or thyroid disease are at higher risk of developing pinched nerves.

Causes and Risk Factors

Pinched nerves happen because there is too much pressure on the nerve roots. The compression can be caused by many reasons, such as:

  • Repetitive motions
  • Holding the body in one position for a long period of time
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Injury
  • Rheumatoid or wrist arthritis
  • Stress from repetitive work
  • Hobbies or sports activities
  • Obesity

Besides, there are also factors that may increase the risk of getting pinched nerves, including:

  • Female gender
  • Bone spurs
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Thyroid disease
  • Diabetes
  • A job that involves repetitive hand, wrist, or shoulder movements
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Excessive bed rest


According to the specific nerve affected, people with pinched nerves tend to show different symptoms. Some of the common symptoms of pinched nerves are as follows:

  • Pain in the affected area
  • Radiation pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling in the arms and hands
  • Weakness
  • Trouble turning the head or straining the neck
  • Decreased sensation in the affected area

Frequently, the symptoms of pinched nerves become worse while sleeping.


To diagnose pinched nerves, the doctor usually only needs to conduct a physical examination. After asking the complete medical history and checking the patient’s symptoms, the doctor can make a diagnosis.

But, to find out the exact causes of pinched nerves, further tests will be required. X-rays test can produce images of bones, providing an overall assessment of the bony anatomy and the curvature and alignment of the vertebral column. MRI scans can show soft tissues such as discs, spinal cord, and nerves. CT scans can produce detailed images of the spine and surrounding structures.

With these imaging tests results, the doctor can further identify the underlying causes of pinched nerves and the patient can receive treatments accordingly.


Treatment approaches towards pinched nerves vary from case to case. For some patients with pinched nerves, they are best treated with non-operative treatments. But for others, they may need to have surgery so as to ease the symptoms.


In order to ease the pain, the patient with pinched nerves can take Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen to reduce the inflammation that causes pain.

Narcotics may also be used to ease the pain, but usually just for a short period. Taking corticosteroids by mouth can help to reduce swelling and pain. The doctor may advise the patient to have steroid injections too, which may reduce swelling and allow inflamed nerves to recover.

Above all, medications should be taken in line with the doctor’s opinion.

Physical therapy

Engaging in proper exercises can be helpful to ease the symptoms of pinched nerves. A physical therapist can personalize training programs for each patient and help the patient to stretch and strengthen muscles.


Wearing a splint can limit the motion and therefore reduce the pain. This way, muscles in the affected area can gain better rest. But usually, this method is only for brief periods.


If there appear serious symptoms, surgery may be recommended by the doctor as well. So, if you have pinched nerves, you should discuss your situation thoroughly with your doctor so as to get immediate and effective treatment.


You may prevent pinched nerves by taking the following measures:

  • Maintain a good posture
  • Avoid staying in one position for long periods of time
  • Do exercises on a regular basis
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Keywords: pinched nerves; nerve compression.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.