Pinched nerve

A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues, such as bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons. This pressure disrupts the nerve's function, causing pain, tingling, numbness or weakness.

A pinched nerve can occur at several sites in your body. A herniated disk in your lower spine, for example, may put pressure on a nerve root, causing pain that radiates down the back of your leg. Likewise, a pinched nerve in your wrist can lead to pain and numbness in your hand and fingers (carpal tunnel syndrome).

With rest and other conservative treatments, most people recover from a pinched nerve within a few days or weeks. Sometimes, surgery is needed to relieve pain from a pinched nerve.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Prevention

Pinched nerve signs and symptoms include:

  • Numbness or decreased sensation in the area supplied by the nerve
  • Sharp, aching or burning pain, which may radiate outward
  • Tingling, "pins and needles" sensations (paresthesia)
  • Muscle weakness in the affected area
  • Frequent feeling that a foot or hand has "fallen asleep"

The problems related to a pinched nerve may be worse when you're sleeping.

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if the signs and symptoms of a pinched nerve last for several days and don't respond to self-care measures, such as rest and over-the-counter pain relievers.

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