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A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues, such as bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons. This pressure disrupts the nerve’s function, causing pain, tingling, numbness or weakness.
A pinched nerve can occur at a number of sites in your body. A herniated disk in your lower spine, for example, may put pressure on a nerve root, causing pain that radiates down the back of your leg. Likewise, a pinched nerve in your wrist can lead to pain and numbness in your hand and fingers (carpal tunnel syndrome).
With rest and other conservative treatments, most people recover from a pinched nerve within a few days or weeks. Sometimes, surgery is needed to relieve pain from a pinched nerve.
Pinched nerve signs and symptoms include:
- Numbness or decreased sensation in the area supplied by the nerve
- Sharp, aching or burning pain, which may radiate outward
- Tingling, pins and needles sensations (paresthesia)
- Muscle weakness in the affected area
- Frequent feeling that a foot or hand has “fallen asleep”
- The problems related to a pinched nerve may be worse when you’re sleeping.
A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure (compression) is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues.
In some cases, this tissue might be bone or cartilage, such as in the case of a herniated spinal disk that compresses a nerve root. In other cases, muscle or tendons may cause the condition.
In the case of carpal tunnel syndrome, a variety of tissues may be responsible for compression of the carpal tunnel’s median nerve, including swollen tendon sheaths within the tunnel, enlarged bone that narrows the tunnel, or a thickened and degenerated ligament.
A number of conditions may cause tissue to compress a nerve or nerves, including:
- Rheumatoid or wrist arthritis
- Stress from repetitive work
- Hobbies or sports activities
If a nerve is pinched for only a short time, there’s usually no permanent damage. Once the pressure is relieved, nerve function returns to normal. However, if the pressure continues, chronic pain and permanent nerve damage can occur.