What exactly is a pinched nerve?

What exactly is a pinched nerve?

Last Reviewed : 12/18/2020
What exactly is a pinched nerve?

What comes to your mind when you come across the phrase “Pinched nerve”? Well, it could be anything. But in this piece, we will take you through everything you need to know about pinched nerve.

Basically, pinched nerve is a layman term used to describe compressed spinal nerve. According to medical scientists, the spinal nerves supply a group of muscles or single muscle with motor, sensory and autonomic signals. Spinal nerves arise from the spinal cord and travel between the vertebral bodies to supply organs and muscles in the body. Sometimes, they may get compressed between the vertebral bodies leading to ‘pinched nerve’.

Causes and Risk Factors

There are two main causes of the condition . These are

  • Trauma
  • Overuse.

On the other hand, the risk factors include: Certain medical conditions that have the potential to cause inflammation. Well, this can also cause pinched nerve. Some of them are:

The nerves that are most commonly prone to compression are:

  • Median nerve
  • Ulnar nerve
  • Cervical nerve
  • Sciatic nerve
  • Radial nerve
  • Femoral nerves
  • Tibial nerve
  • Plantar nerve
  • Lateral cutaneous nerve of thigh
  • Peroneal nerve

Vital Symptoms

With respect to the symptoms of pinched nerve, they depend on the number of muscles affected. Mostly the sensory and motor component of the muscle is lost. They also depend on the location of the affected nerves. Symptoms can be mild or severe. It rarely causes permanent damage.

  • Burning sensation
  • Tingling and numbness
  • Pain that radiates along the course of the nerve
  • Decreased sensations in the area of the affected nerve
  • Weakness of the muscles.

In rare conditions, if the nerves arising from the lower part of the spinal cord get affected, then the following symptoms may be present:

  • Loss of bladder control
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Sexual dysfunction.

Diagnosis is often clinical. Some of the tests used for evaluation are:

  • Electromyography
  • Nerve conduction Studies
  • X-rays
  • MRI.

Treatment primarily involves the release of compression or underlying cause. Symptomatic relief is obtained by anti-inflammatory drugs. However, surgery is rarely needed.


Wrapping up, pinched nerve occurs when enormous pressure is exerted to a nerve that is surrounded by muscles, tendons, cartilages, and bones. When this pressure is applied, it leads some form of disruption to the normal functioning of the nerve. In turn, it results in numbness, tingling, or weakness. In this piece, you have learned the risk factor and causes of this condition. On top of that, we have also dissected the symptoms and diagnosis of pinched nerve. Therefore, you are advised to consult your doctor when you notice any of the symptoms in your body.

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