Pinched Nerve Diagnosis and Treatments
Diagnosing a Pinched Nerve
In order to get the right treatment for your pinched nerve, you’ll need an accurate diagnosis. Our medical team will take you through a comprehensive diagnostic workup that might include the following:
- Getting your medical history. Our doctors will want to know your current symptoms, previous treatments you’ve had for the symptoms, and what you are currently doing to mitigate the pain.
- A thorough physical examination. Your spine specialist will want to examine you for signs of any issues with your balance, pain, loss of sensation, weakness in your muscles, or any signs of spinal cord damage.
- Diagnostic testing. This usually includes x-rays to rule out infections or tumors. Other imaging such as CT scans give your spinal doctor a three-dimensional view of your spine and its structure.
Treatment Options for a Pinched Nerve
Non-Operative Treatment for Pinched Nerves
Your doctor will want to start with conservative treatments for your pinched nerve. These benefit most patients with pinched nerve symptoms. Conservative treatments include:
- Pain medication, including muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories, and sometimes even narcotic painkillers.
- Alternating cold and hot compresses for the first twenty-four to forty-eight hours.
- Physical therapy to stretch, massage, and strengthen your back.
- Epidural steroid injections to reduce your inflammation and help your spine specialist pinpoint the exact location of your pinched nerve.
Least Invasive Endoscopic Procedure Options for Pinched Nerves
If you are still experiencing pinched nerve symptoms after attempting conservative treatments, then it may be time to consider a surgical option. The following procedures offer up to a 90% success rate in treating bulging discs and pinched nerves.
Endoscopic Discectomy (transforaminal or interlaminar): Using an incision that’s only about a ¼ of an inch long, your spinal surgeon can access the spinal canal without damaging your muscles. Using a high-definition camera, your surgeon will located the herniated disc and complete the procedure. Most patients are able to return to work within the week. Conscious sedation is used, eliminating the risk of general anesthesia, so you are comfortable and aware during the surgery.
Surgical Treatment Options for Pinched Nerves
- Laminectomy – This is a procedure that removes some or all of the posterior part of the vertebra, known as the lamina. It also removes the ligament that holds the vertebrae together. In order to prevent instability in the spine, your spine surgeon may also perform a spinal fusion.
- Foraminotomy – This process reduces the pressure on your nerves caused by a narrowing foramen by removing the opening. Your surgeon may also do a spinal fusion to prevent instability in your spine.
- Least-Invasive Microdiscectomy – This procedure removes the material associated with a herniated disc that might be compressing the nerves in your spine. It’s done with a microscope and surgical loops as a microdiscectomy, removing the herniated disc after first removing the lamina to access the damaged material.
- Spinal Fusion – This procedure uses surgical rods and screws to connect two or more of your vertebrae together. Then, the surgeon puts a bone graft in the space between to encourage the bones to grow together. Sometimes, this procedure eliminates the patient’s pain, though it is often used in conjunction with other surgical procedures to help eliminate instability.
Recovery from Pinched Nerve Treatments
Most of our patients are able to get out of bed about an hour after their procedure and go home soon after, once they’ve been examined and released by our team. You’ll want to increase your activity slowly, returning to work in a couple days. Once you are home, you’ll want to continue resting. You might need to take pain medication for a little while for pain at the procedure site. Your spinal surgeon will give you other methods to control your pain as well as optimize your recovery. Make sure that you check with your doctor before you start your normal activities like walking, driving, sports, and yard work. If you experience more pain, be sure to check in with your doctor.