Treating a Pinched Nerve in the Back A pinched nerve in the back can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms, leading many of those who suffer from the condition to actively seek methods for relieving their pain. The best course of action for these patients to take is to consult their primary care physician or a spine specialist. There are a number of conservative treatments that can be used to manage the symptoms of a pinched nerve in the back, and working with a physician will provide the patient with the best possible hope for relieving their pain and discomfort.
Pinched Nerve CausesA pinched nerve in the back is most commonly caused by aspinal condition that has slowly developed over time. By thetime most individuals reach middle age, they will havedeveloped one or more of these conditions, which arecollectively referred to as degenerative spinal conditions. Theseconditions are the result of the continued strain that is placedon the spine each time it facilitates movement or bears weight.After years of carrying out their responsibilities, the anatomicalcomponents of the spine –primarily the vertebrae, facet joints,and intervertebral discs – can begin to deteriorate, makingthem susceptible to misalignment, arthritis, bulging, orherniation, respectively. It is these conditions that often lead tothe compression of a spinal nerve. Every one of the body’snerves is a branch from the spinal cord, which is the conduit ofinformation from the brain to the rest of the body. Because ofthe sheer number of highly sensitive nerves that are found inthe back, it’s no wonder that damage within or injury to thespinal column can lead to a pinched nerve in the back.
Pinched Nerve Symptoms Just as the spinal nerves transmit sensory and motor signals throughout the body, they can also transmit pain signals. As a result, a pinched nerve in the back can result in discomfort in the parts of the body that are innervated by that particular nerve. Since the nerves in the lower back are responsible for controlling the lower body, a pinched nerve in the back can cause discomfort in the following areas: • Lower back • Hips • Buttocks • Legs • Feet The symptoms most commonly associated with a pinched nerve include pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness. Fortunately, these symptoms can typically be treated through the use of nonsurgical techniques.
MedicationMedication is one of the primary conservative treatments that areused to manage the symptoms of a pinched nerve in the back.Physicians will often advise their patients to initially utilize over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such asibuprofen and naproxen, or analgesics such as acetaminophen. It isextremely important to consult a physician or pharmacist beforetaking any of these medications, as they can sometimes interferewith other drugs or cause adverse reactions in those who havecardiovascular, gastrointestinal, or other types of conditions.If over-the-counter medication proves insufficient, or if a patient’spain is especially debilitating, a doctor may prescribe narcotic painrelievers or muscle relaxants. It should be noted, however, thatmany physicians are hesitant to prescribe these medicationsbecause of their rampant abuse. As a result, some doctors mayadvise patients to utilize other types of conservative treatmentsbefore attempting prescription medication.
Physical Therapy Many patients who suffer from a pinched nerve in the back find working with a physical therapist to be beneficial. Despite popular opinion, physical therapy can entail more than just strength training exercises. While it can prove incredibly beneficial for patients to increase the strength in their lower backs and abdominals so as to provide the spine with better support, other treatment methods can also prove helpful. Some of these methods include:• Cryotherapy – Also called cold therapy, cryotherapy entails the application of an ice pack or other cold source to the lower back. This practice can relieve inflammation, which could be causing or contributing to the compression of the affected nerve. Cryotherapy also helps to ease pain by numbing the area.• Thermotherapy – This type of therapy, also called heat therapy, involves using a heating pad to increase blood flow. When the heat source is applied to the lower back, the body responds by pumping that area full of nutrient-rich blood, which can help in the healing process.• Massage therapy – Applying pressure while rubbing or kneading the muscles in the back can relieve tension. This can prove beneficial to those who suffer from a pinched nerve in the back if tense or spastic muscles are causing the compression of the affected nerve.• Therapeutic ultrasound – This technique entails using sound waves to deeply penetrate the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other connective tissues. Therapeutic ultrasound can help with the healing process by enhancing cell repair.
Lifestyle Modifications In many cases, reversing certain behaviors or making specific lifestyle changes can help to relieve the chronic pain that is often associated with a pinched nerve in the back. It’s important to note that making these changes will not benefit all patients and a physician should be consulted before doing so. That said, some of the lifestyle changes that can help relieve the pain and discomfort of a pinched nerve are:• Weight loss – Being overweight forces the spine to work extra hard to carry out basic tasks, such as walking, sitting, and even lying down. Shedding excess pounds can help to ease some of the strain that is placed on the back and may also help to relieve some of the pressure that is being placed on the affected nerve.• Becoming more active – Whether an individual is obese or is at a healthy weight, leading a sedentary lifestyle can severely affect the spine. Without adequate exercise, the muscles and ligaments in the back can weaken and become less adept at supporting the spine. In turn, this can contribute to the degenerative changes that can lead to neural compression.• Quitting smoking and/or reducing alcohol consumption – Tobacco products contain chemicals that are not only detrimental to the cardiovascular system and the lungs, but that are also harmful to the spine. These chemicals rob the blood of adequate levels of oxygen and certain nutrients, leading to malnourished intervertebral discs and other anatomical components of the spine. Excessive alcohol consumption can have similar effects and can also interfere with the body’s production of bone material, potentially contributing to the development of spinal arthritis.
Surgical Treatment Most patients who suffer from a pinched nerve in the back are able to relieve their symptoms through the use of conservative, nonsurgical treatments. However, some patients may receive little to no relief after several weeks or months and these patients may be advised to consider surgical treatment. Before consenting to any operation, patients should ask their doctors which operations they are candidates for and should thoroughly research all options before committing to one in particular. Patients may also want to seek a second opinion to ensure that surgery is necessary.