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What is a pinched nerve?

With rest and time, most pinched nerves will heal completely.

The term "pinched nerve" describes damage or injury to a nerve or group of nerves. It can happen when the nerves become compressed or constricted.

Symptoms of a pinched nerve include:

  • Numbness.
  • A feeling of pins and needles.
  • Burning sensations.
  • Pain radiating outward from the affected area.

Sometimes a pinched nerve is a minor hindrance, causing only temporary symptoms. But other times, pinched nerves can cause additional problems. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) these can include tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome and peripheral neuropathy—a condition that can cause muscle weakness, impaired reflexes, and a feeling of numbness or tingling in the hands or feet. Early diagnosis is important to prevent long-term damage and complications.

Resting the affected area is the most frequently recommended treatment for a pinched nerve, says NINDS. Other treatments may include physical therapy, the use of splints or collars, and corticosteroids to help relieve pain. In some cases surgery may also be recommended.

With treatment, most people recover from pinched nerves. But in some cases, the damage is irreversible.

Reviewed 10/8/2020

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