Pinched Nerve Treatment in New Jersey

Are you dealing with back pain, a stiff neck or constant pain in your arms and legs? These could be signs that you have a pinched nerve. Nerves throughout your spine and body can become compressed by surrounding tissues, leading to pain, numbness, a tingling sensation or even weakness. While time, rest and home treatments are often enough to alleviate most pinched nerve symptoms, some cases require more help.

At RWJBarnabas Health, we recognize that a pinched nerve can cause problems that affect activities of daily living. For instance, a herniated disc in the lower spine might pressure a nerve root, causing pain that radiates down the leg. Similarly, a pinched nerve in the wrist might result in carpal tunnel syndrome, marked by pain and numbness in the hand and fingers.

Our orthopedic specialists, neurologists and neurosurgeons are equipped with the knowledge and expertise to guide you through your pinched nerve treatment.

What Is a Pinched Nerve?

Animation showing a pinched nerve

Nerves are conduits that transmit electrical messages between the brain and the body that control voluntary and involuntary processes. A pinched nerve occurs when a nerve in the body gets squeezed by the tissues around it. Pinched nerves are common. Every year, about 85 out of 100,000 adults in the U.S. suffer from the problem. They're more likely in people over 50 because of arthritis and wear and tear in the spine and other body parts.

If you don't treat a pinched nerve, it can cause long-lasting pain or even permanent nerve damage. If your symptoms don't improve after a few days, tell your doctor.

Types of Pinched Nerves We Treat

Pinched nerves can happen in different parts of your body and cause pain and discomfort. Here are some common types:

  • Pinched nerve in the neck (cervical radiculopathy). When a nerve in a person’s neck gets squeezed, it can cause neck pain along with pain numbness, tingling or weakness into the shoulder, arm, hand or fingers.
  • Pinched nerve in the back (lumbar radiculopathy or sciatica). This can cause pain in the back along with pain, numbness or weakness that spreads to the buttocks and legs and is often called sciatica.
  • Upper/middle back pinched nerve (thoracic radiculopathy). This is rare and happens in the upper or mid back. It can cause pain or numbness that wraps around the chest and torso.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. A common pinched nerve in the wrist makes the hand and fingers numb, tingly and painful.
  • Pinched nerve at the elbow (ulnar nerve entrapment or cubital tunnel syndrome). When the nerve running from the neck to the hand gets squeezed at the elbow, it can make a person’s ring and little fingers feel numb and tingly.
  • Pinched nerve in the arm (radial nerve compression). This condition can make the back of the hand and wrist feel numb, tingly or weak.
  • Pinched nerve at the knee (peroneal nerve compression). This happens on the outside of the knee and can make lifting the front part of the foot difficult. This can cause a dropped foot and numbness into the leg and foot.
  • Thigh pain from a pinched nerve (meralgia paresthetica). As a nerve in the thigh gets squeezed, it causes tingling, numbness, and a burning pain on the outside of the thigh.
  • Pinched nerve in the ankle (tarsal tunnel syndrome). This is like carpal tunnel syndrome but in the ankle. It causes pain and numbness in the foot.

The treatment method for a pinched nerve depends on its location and severity.

Pinched Nerve Causes

A pinched nerve happens when something around the nerve, like bone, muscle or other tissues, puts too much pressure on it. It can occur from a variety of causes:

  • Arthritis
  • A herniated spinal disc can press on a nerve
  • In carpal tunnel syndrome, the nerve in the wrist gets squeezed because of swollen tendons, thickened ligaments or bigger bones
  • Using repetitive motions at work or in sports
  • Being overweight or obese or getting injured can also pinch a nerve

If a nerve gets pinched for a short time, it usually doesn't cause lasting harm. But if the pressure keeps up, it can lead to long-term pain and nerve damage.

Risk Factors

Some things make you more likely to get a pinched nerve. For example:

  • Gender. Women might get carpal tunnel syndrome more because their wrist tunnels are smaller.
  • Bone spurs. Bone spurs from osteoarthritis or injuries can pinch nerves.
  • Repetitive motion. Jobs or hobbies that need a lot of hand, wrist or shoulder movements can cause it.
  • Pregnancy. Being pregnant can also increase the risk.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. This condition can make your joints swell and pinch nerves.
  • Age. Your spine changes as you get older. Discs can flatten, and bone spurs can grow, squeezing nerves.
  • Certain diseases. People with thyroid disease or diabetes are more at risk.
  • Obesity. People who are overweight or obese are more at risk.
  • Injuries. Injuries from sports or accidents and moves like lifting or twisting can lead to pinched nerves.

Pinched Nerve Symptoms

If you have a pinched nerve, you might feel:

  • Pain that can be sharp or just a dull ache
  • Numbness
  • Weak muscles
  • A tingly feeling, like when your leg, hand or foot “falls asleep”

These symptoms can worsen due to your position when you are sleeping.

If you're trying things like resting or taking pain medicine you can get without a prescription, and you still feel these symptoms after a few days, see a doctor.

Pinched Nerve Diagnosis

To determine if you have a pinched nerve, your doctor will check you carefully. They may ask about your symptoms and conduct a physical exam. They may also order blood tests, spinal tap, lumbar puncture or nerve conduction study.

They might ask you to do some imaging tests such as:

  • X-ray. It shows how your bones line up and if anything is causing the nerve to be pinched.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan. Gives 3D images of your spine, showing more detail than an X-ray.
  • Electromyography (EMG). This measures muscle electrical activity to see if the nerve is working right and if the symptoms are from a pinched nerve or something else, like diabetes.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRIs determine if soft tissue damage is causing the pinched nerve or if there's damage to the spinal cord.

Pinched Nerve Treatment in New Jersey

The main treatment for a pinched nerve is to rest the affected area, and not do things that make it worse. You might have to wear a splint, collar or brace, depending on where the pinched nerve is.

Wearing a splint for carpal tunnel syndrome in your wrist can help, especially during sleep.

Most of the time, a pinched nerve will get better on its own in about 4 to 6 weeks. You can help it heal with rest and pain medicine like naproxen, ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If it doesn't start to feel better after a few days, you should call your doctor. They might ask you to come in for more tests and help.

Nonsurgical Treatment for Pinched Nerves

If surgery isn't needed, you might try:

  • Time and rest. Sometimes, just waiting helps the nerve get better.
  • Ice and heat. This can reduce swelling and pain.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers. For example, acetaminophen or NSAIDs.
  • Splints and cervical collars. These limit movement and help you heal.
  • Strong anti-inflammatory medicine. For example, oral or injected corticosteroids.
  • Light exercises and stretches. These can ease the pressure on nerves.
  • Physical therapy. A physical therapist can demonstrate exercises to make muscles stronger and more flexible in order to help take pressure off the nerve. They can also show you how to change activities that hurt the nerve.

Surgery to Relieve Pinched Nerves

If pain persists for a few weeks or months despite these treatments, surgery could be the next step.

For carpal tunnel syndrome, an orthopedic surgeon can release the ligament in the wrist to make more room for the nerve.

Surgery for the spine might include:

  • Removing or stabilizing disc or bone spurs from the spine
  • Replacing a damaged disc with an artificial one for more flexibility
  • Thinning down a bone in the spine to remove bone spurs and tissues pressing on the nerve

Recovery from Surgery

After surgery, getting back to full strength can take a few months. You might return to a desk job in a few days or weeks, but full activities could take weeks to months depending upon the procedure. For carpal tunnel surgery, there are two types: open surgery with a larger cut or endoscopic surgery with smaller cuts and a camera. Both aim to release the ligament in the wrist to relieve pressure on the nerve. Full recovery from this can take up to 12 weeks.

Expert Care for Pinched Nerve

If you are in New Jersey and have pain from a pinched nerve, RWJBarnabas Health is here to help. We are the largest academic health care system in New Jersey, and provide award-winning services by skilled physicians who are experts in their fields.

Pay attention to pinched nerve symptoms. Get help from a medical professional early to stop the problem from getting worse and help you get better faster.


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