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What Causes a Pinched Nerve and How Serious is this Issue?

pinched nerve in neck of woman driving carA pinched nerve is what happens when surrounding tissues put pressure on nerve roots, causing pain, numbness and tingling in different areas of the body, most commonly in the neck, upper middle back, or lower back.

While a pinched nerve can be painful, it’s usually treatable with rest, over-the-counter medication and stretching. Most often, people experience a complete recovery.

However, a pinched nerve can lead to more serious problems, so you should reach out to your provider if the symptoms get worse or don’t improve after several days.

And, you should know that there are those symptoms that require medical attention as soon as possible, including:

  • A pinched nerve affecting the bladder
  • The inability to grip objects or a tendency to drop things
  • Nerve damage that causes a limb or area of the body to give out or collapse


What are the more common and less worrisome symptoms?

  • Numbness
  • Sharp, aching or burning pain, which may radiate outward
  • Tingling,
  • Stinging pain, like pins and needles
  • Muscle weakness
  • The feeling that a foot or hand has “fallen asleep”

Symptoms may also be worse while lying down or just after you have awakened from sleep.


What are the most common causes?

In general, as noted above, a nerve can get pinched when there is increased pressure put on it from the surrounding structures. There are numerous possible causes of this increased pressure, including:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis, which causes inflammation in the joints
  • A herniated disc in the spine, which can compress the root of a nerve
  • Diabetes and its high blood sugar levels, which can cause nerve damage
  • Obesity, which can put undue strain on internal tissues, causing inflammation
  • Pregnancy that alters hormone levels resulting in tissue swelling that compresses nerves.
  • Injuries that cause inflammation in the body, increasing the risk for pinched nerves
*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery