How Do I Know If I've Pinched a Nerve?

Jul 06, 2023
How Do I Know If I've Pinched a Nerve?
Pinched nerves can affect your ability to function, making your regular daily tasks a pain. But how can you tell if the uncomfortable sensation you’re experiencing is a pinched nerve or something else? Read on to find out.

Are you experiencing sudden shooting pain that radiates down your arm or leg? Or a tingling sensation and numbness in certain areas of your body? If so, you’re probably trying to figure out whether these symptoms mean you have a pinched nerve or if something else is going on. 

Board-certified neurosurgeon Praveen Reddy, MD, MCh., and our team at the Center for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery, with multiple locations in the greater Houston area, can help. Keep reading to learn more about pinched nerves, common causes, and how to tell if you’re dealing with one. 

What is a pinched nerve and what causes it?

You can get a pinched nerve when the nerve experiences excessive pressure from surrounding tissues such as muscles, tendons, bones, or cartilage. The compression disrupts the nerve's normal function, leading to a range of symptoms. 

One of the most common reasons people develop a pinched nerve is repetitive motion. Performing the same movement over and over can put excess stress on the affected body part. 

For example, typing or other jobs that require repetitive hand and arm movement can make you more likely to develop a pinched nerve in your elbow or wrist. 

Poor body posture is another reason for pinched nerves. Sitting or standing without proper posture strains the tissues in your body, contributing to the compression that leads to a pinched nerve, especially in the neck and back. 

Other factors increase your risk of developing a pinched nerve. These include things that put pressure on certain body parts, increasing the likelihood of nerve compression, such as:

  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Arthritis or joint inflammation
  • Herniated discs
  • Abnormal bone growth (e.g., bone spurs)
  • Trauma or injury that causes compression

You’re also more prone to developing pinched nerves when you’re pregnant or have certain medical conditions (e.g., Type 2 diabetes and autoimmune disorders).  

What are the signs I have a pinched nerve?

The best way to learn if your symptoms come from a pinched nerve is by visiting a nerve specialist like Dr. Reddy at Center for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery. He has the expertise and experience necessary to accurately diagnose your condition and recommend the best course of treatment.  

It’s best to seek help from a knowledgeable provider because the symptoms of a pinched nerve can be similar to other conditions, like carpal tunnel syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, or a muscle injury. 

And when you have a pinched nerve, the sensations can travel along the nerve’s pathway, making it difficult to pinpoint the root area of concern without medical knowledge.  

That being said, there are some common signs that could mean you’re experiencing a pinched nerve, including: 

  • Tingling or pins-and-needles sensations
  • Numbness or reduced sensation
  • Sharp, burning, or aching pain
  • Pain that feels like an electric jolt when you move
  • Muscle weakness or lack of control
  • Difficulty with coordination or movement

The symptoms you experience depend on the part of your body experiencing nerve compression. 

What can help a pinched nerve?

Prevention is the best medicine for pinched nerves. By maintaining good posture, taking frequent breaks if your work or hobby requires repetitive motion, using ergonomic tools, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight, you can prevent pinched nerves. 

If you suspect you have a pinched nerve, schedule an evaluation with us for an accurate diagnosis. We review your medical history, conduct an exam, and order any additional tests necessary to determine the location and cause of the compression. 

Personalized pinched nerve treatment depends on multiple factors, including the severity of your symptoms and the underlying cause of the compression. Many times, pinched nerves respond well to conservative therapies, including: 

  • Rest and heat/cold therapy
  • Over-the-counter pain medicines and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Physical therapy
  • Gentle stretching

If conservative treatments fail to give you the relief you need or if the pinched nerve causes significant impairment or nerve damage, we may recommend other treatment interventions. These can include corticosteroid injections, splinting or bracing, or in severe cases, surgery to ease the compression on the nerve.

If you’re struggling with the signs of a pinched nerve, get relief by scheduling an appointment with Dr. Reddy online or over the phone today at The Woodlands, Conroe, Willis, or Willowbrook location in the greater Houston, Texas, area.

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