If you’ve been diagnosed with a “pinched” nerve, it means something is irritating a nerve—usually one somewhere in the neck or back area. In some cases, the source of compression or irritation is a herniated, bulging, or slipped disc. At other times, it could be bone spurs or an abnormally narrow part of your spine (spinal stenosis) contributing to your discomfort. If you’re like most people with pinched nerves, what you really want to know is how long it will be until you feel better.
The duration of your discomfort will depend on several factors, including the nature and severity of your symptoms. It’s not unusual for a pinched nerve to produce radiating pain (radiculopathy)—discomfort that extends along the pathway of the affected nerve. If this is what you’re experiencing, you may notice:
• Pain, weakness, or numbness in your arm, shoulder, or upper back if the pinched nerve is in your neck area
• Numbness, pain, or weakness in your thighs, buttocks, hips, or legs if a nerve in your lower back area is affected
• A combination of local and radiating discomfort
Your ability to recover could also be affected by issues with your immune system and any underlying health problems, such as high blood pressure, arthritis, and diabetes. Additionally, the extent of the nerve compression will determine how well the affected nerve is able to heal.
Most people with pinched nerves respond well to conservative (non-surgical) treatment within 6 to 12 weeks. Even if your symptoms are severe and debilitating, it’s possible to notice improvements over time. However, the source of nerve irritation will affect how well conservative care works.
For example, one study found that cervical (neck) radiculopathy symptoms related to a herniated disc improved considerably within 4 to 6 months. Fortunately, there are many conservative treatment options that could provide welcome relief from pain associated with a pinched nerve. Some of these include:
• Short periods of rest
• Modification of activities
• Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
• Ice and heat applications to reduce inflammation and increase circulation
• Physical therapy exercises to enhance flexibility, muscle strength, and posture
• Epidural steroid injections to ease inflammation in the affected area
• Chiropractic care
If your pinched nerve discomfort isn’t going away after several months of attempting conservative treatments, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure, such as a lumbar foraminotomy. Los Angeles patients may need surgery sooner if their symptoms are severe or potentially life-threatening. While it’s rare for surgery to be absolutely necessary for a pinched nerve, you may reach a point where it’s the best option for you, especially if there’s a damaged disc, spinal deformity, or abnormal growth irritating the affected nerve.
Because there are many possible sources of radiating nerve pain, it’s important to find out for sure what’s going on. You may be referred to a Los Angeles spine surgeon for this purpose. Once the source of your pinched nerve has been determined, you’ll be more likely to benefit from treatments recommended for you.
If you suspect you may have a pinched nerve, make an appointment today with the spinal health experts at The Spine Institute, who will be able to make a personalized diagnosis and devise a customized treatment plan to alleviate your pain. Our physicians are industry pioneers in every aspect of neck and back health. Reach out to one of our friendly representatives today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.