Pinched nerve treatment — how compressed nerves in the spine can be addressed
Pinched nerve treatment for the neck and back is generally designed to relieve pain, tingling, numbness, muscle weakness, spasms and other symptoms of nerve compression. Because the space available within the spinal column is limited, the spinal nerve roots or the spinal cord can be pinched by nearby herniated disc material, inflamed tissue or bone spurs. This can interfere with the proper transmission of neural signals and lead to discomfort. Many patients are able to find sufficient symptom relief through conservative nonsurgical treatments.
Conservative pinched nerve treatment options
There are several conservative options available for treating the symptoms of a pinched nerve, and the therapies that work best for one patient might prove to be completely ineffective for another. Therefore, to determine the optimal approach for you, your doctor will likely begin by ordering a series of tests, which may include a nerve conduction study or electromyography. Your physician can then use the results of these tests to thoroughly assess the nature of your condition before recommending an appropriate pinched nerve treatment plan.
Oftentimes, pinched nerve symptoms are alleviated simply by resting the affected area, so your physician may initially recommend that you temporarily refrain from engaging in activities that aggravate your discomfort. However, even if you start to feel better immediately, it’s best not to rush back to training, competition and other strenuous pursuits. Instead, allow your symptoms sufficient time to subside.
Additionally, some simple lifestyle changes may be all you need to overcome your painful pinched nerve symptoms. Some approaches that you might try include:
- Following a nutritious diet and exercising. Through a combination of proper nutrition, targeted physical activity and weight management, it may be possible to strengthen the core muscles that support the spine and simultaneously reduce stress on the spinal anatomy, leading to relief.
- Practicing good posture. Keeping the spine in proper alignment and distributing the body’s weight evenly across the spinal region can help relieve painful pressure.
- Avoiding tobacco use. Smoking has been shown to lead to the breakdown of proteins in spinal discs, which leads to faster degeneration.
Other conservative pinched nerve treatment options that have proven to be effective for many patients include:
- Physical therapy. By providing instruction on safe and proper stretching and exercise techniques, a physical therapist can teach a patient how to effectively stretch and strengthen the core muscles that support the spine. The ultimate goal of physical therapy is to increase the flexibility and endurance level of these important muscles, especially those surrounding the pinched nerve, which can reduce neural pressure and pain.
- Medications. Prescription and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, can reduce the inflammation around a pinched nerve and help relieve the associated discomfort.
- Hot and cold therapy. Alternating applications of heat and cold can be very effective for soothing the pain resulting from a pinched nerve. This simple remedy can be performed at home with the use of a heating pad and ice packs or hot and cool baths.
Additionally, some patients have tried alternative pinched nerve treatment options like acupuncture and found them to be helpful for relieving the pain, weakness, numbness and tingling that often accompany a pinched nerve. Because acupuncture focuses on improving overall body health by reducing stress and increasing circulation, it is said that the body’s natural healing process can sometimes be enhanced as a result. Acupuncture can be attempted on its own, or in combination with other noninvasive treatment options.
Another alternative pinched nerve treatment that has proven to be successful for many patients is the practice of restorative yoga. This modified version of yoga is designed specifically to reduce stress and rehabilitate injuries. An experienced yoga trainer can provide instruction on simple poses that are supported by pillows or blocks, which can place the body in comfortable positions to encourage relaxation and healing. A targeted, doctor-approved exercise program that incorporates restorative yoga can promote recovery and help strengthen the core muscles that support the spine, which can reduce the likelihood of further injury. Of course, if you attempt restorative yoga and your pain worsens, you should stop immediately and seek the advice of a physician.
For severe pain that does not respond to these types of conservative treatments, a physician might recommend a series of corticosteroid injections. The powerful synthetic anti-inflammatory medication in these injections often provides pinched nerve patients with relatively long-lasting relief once the medication takes effect. However, a physician will usually limit the number of corticosteroid injections that a patient receives. The reason is twofold: First, the medication loses effectiveness over time, and second, it can also cause side effects, such as weight gain, nausea, headaches, muscle weakness, hypertension and osteoporosis.
Through a combination of these measures, you may be able to successfully manage your discomfort to the point that you can remain functional and participate in daily activities. Nevertheless, while surgical correction of a pinched nerve is not commonly required, it sometimes becomes necessary if conservative treatment approaches fail to provide adequate relief.
Surgical pinched nerve treatments
In most cases, the goal of surgical intervention is to directly address the underlying cause of the pinched nerve symptoms and provide lasting relief. A typical procedure involves the removal of the herniated or bulging disc material, bone or other tissue that is compressing the affected nerve root or spinal cord.
If you’ve considered traditional open back surgery as a pinched nerve treatment in the past but have been discouraged by the associated risks and difficulties, contact us today to learn about the minimally invasive spine surgery performed by the skilled surgeons at USA Spine Care. Our outpatient procedures are completed using state-of-the-art technology and muscle-sparing techniques that allow for a less than 1-inch incision. This significantly lowers the disruption of nearby musculature, with the goal of shortening the associated recovery time and reducing the likelihood of potential scarring.^ Furthermore, all of our procedures are performed in an outpatient setting.
To learn more, contact our team today. We’re happy to provide a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.
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