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What is a Pinched Nerve?

A pinched nerve occurs when neurons in your nervous system are compressed by the actions of bones, muscles, ligaments, cartilage, tendons or the contents of an intervertebral disc. The pressure activates a pain signal in your nerves that alerts your brain that something is not right at a specific location.

Sometimes the signal may be numbness, tingling, a feeling of pinpricks, or a sharp radiating pain somewhere in the patient’s legs or arms. Some patients may feel muscle weakness. This radiating pain is called radiculopathy.  To a physician, radiculopathy is a little bit like a curveball. The source of the pain is referred or coming from another location. So actually, there is nothing wrong with the patient’s legs at all. The problem is a pinched nerve located somewhere in the lower part of the spine. Your neurosurgeon is trained to pinpoint the location using a range of simple exercises and advanced imaging tools if needed.

The same type of radiating referred pain can be felt by patients who complain of tingling in their hands, arms and shoulders. The actual location of the nerve that is triggering the referred pain is in the neck, the cervical region of the spine.

What causes a pinched nerve?

There are many reasons that a nerve can be pinched including injuries caused by car accidents and sports. For people over forty who complain of neck or back pain, or who have pain sensations that resemble radiculopathy, the pain may be a sign of degenerative spine disease caused by osteoarthritis. A disc may have herniated and is pressing on a nerve. It could be stenosis which narrows pathways and compresses nerves. Your neurosurgeon is trained to locate and diagnose the slew of conditions that are caused by pinched nerves.

How is a pinched nerve treated?

Your neurosurgeon is tasked with the challenge of relieving pain and decompressing pinched nerves as safely as possible. Acetaminophen will reduce pain while the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen will treat pain and inflammation.

For intense pain, some doctors may prescribe opioid-based pain relievers and muscle relaxers. Dr. Melamed’s conservative treatment avoids opioids and treats chronic pain with a combination of holistic alternatives such as acupuncture, Tai-Chi and yoga. He may recommend structured, low-impact, exercise programs, including water therapy with pool-based resistance training.

Additional treatments such as acupuncture, TENS electrical stimulation and epidural corticosteroid injections may also be recommended to manage pain.

Fortunately, the good news is that most patients fully recover without any surgical intervention. If surgery is needed, Dr. Melamed can provide the full range of minimally invasive microdecompression treatments.

Is your back pain caused by a pinched nerve?

Click on the “Make An Appointment” button at the top of this page, or call Dr. Melamed’s office for more information. There is no better time than today to start the journey to a life without back pain. Call us at 310-928-2769.

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