Pinched Nerves: The Little-Known Symptoms Everyone Needs To Know

by Ileana Paules-Bronet
Ileana is the Editor of Original Content at LittleThings. She grew up in upstate New York and Oregon and now lives in Queens, NY. Ileana graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in sociology. After graduating, she attended the Columbia Publishing Course in New York City, then worked as in marketing at Oxford University Press. Since transitioning to editorial, she has written for sites like BuzzFeed, HuffPost, and Unwritten. She has also worked for local newspapers and magazines in upstate New York. In her free time, you can find Ileana watching Law and Order: SVU, eating ice cream, and spending time with her dog.

As you get older, your body may start to let you down a little. Your muscles become slightly weaker, your joints ache, your bones become more brittle, and you may even become clumsier.

It’s never particularly fun to injure yourself, but as you get older, it takes longer and longer for your body to heal from an injury.

One common injury people experience as they age is a pinched nerve. People have nerves throughout their entire bodies, but once in a while those nerves can become pinched — it’s painful and uncomfortable, but there’s often simple treatments for them.

WebMD explains, “Nerves extend from your brain to your spinal cord, sending important messages throughout your body.

If you have a pinched nerve (nerve compression) your body may send you warning signals such as pain… Damage from a pinched nerve may be minor or severe. It may cause temporary or long-lasting problems. The earlier you get a diagnosis and treatment for nerve compression, the more quickly you’ll find relief. In some cases you can’t reverse the damage from a pinched nerve. But treatment usually relieves pain and other symptoms.”

To find out more about pinched nerves, their symptoms, and their treatment, read below!

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What Does It Mean For A Nerve To Be "Pinched"?

pinched nerve in spine
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The phrase “pinched nerve” gets thrown around by doctors and medical professionals a lot, but what exactly does it mean?

According to WebMD, “A pinched nerve occurs when there is ‘compression’ (pressure) on a nerve.”

How Do Nerves Become Pinched?

how nerves become pinched
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According to Mayo Clinic, “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.”

WebMD explains, “The pressure may be the result of repetitive motions, or it may happen from holding your body in one position for long periods, such as keeping elbows bent while sleeping. Nerves are most vulnerable at places in your body where they travel through narrow spaces but have little soft tissue to protect them.”

Pinched Nerve Symptoms
Pinched Nerve Symptom #1: Radiating Pain From The Source

pinched nerve pain
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Having a pinched nerve can cause a lot of pain in various areas. One of the most common symptoms is pain that radiates from the source.

If you have a pinched nerve in your neck or shoulder, you may feel “pain, numbness, and tingling that radiates from your neck down your upper back, shoulders or arms.”

If you have a pinched nerve in your back, you may feel “back pain radiating from your lower back running down your legs. Pinched nerves are most common in the lower back because the lower back bears a high percentage of pressure and force.”

Pinched Nerve Symptom #2: Numbness, Tingling, Or "Pins And Needles"

pinched nerve symptoms
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According to Dr. Axe, “You might experience pins and needles” if you have a pinched nerve.

Like the pain, numbness and tingling can radiate from the source of the pinched nerve.

When it comes to pinched nerves in the back, “burning sensations, tingling, heat, and weakness might be felt in the thighs, low back or buttocks. Sometimes the pain might spread upward to your chest and neck.”

Pinched Nerve Symptom #3: Weakness And Loosened Grip

pinched nerve weakness
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If your pinched nerve is in your neck or shoulder, “your grip may become weak, and your arm or hand might become stiff.”

Elsewhere, you may experience muscle weakness in the area, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Pinched Nerve Symptom #4: Worsened Pain From Both Activity And Sleeping

pinched nerve sleeping
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Although it may seem counterintuitive, pinched nerve pain can get worse from both increased activity as well as sleep.

WebMD explains, “Sometimes symptoms worsen when you try certain movements, such as turning your head or straining your neck.”

Additionally, “Pain likely gets worse if you exercise, after waking up from sleeping, or when you’re bending and walking,” according to Dr. Axe.

Pinched Nerve Treatments
Pinched Nerve Treatment #1: Talk To Your Doctor

pinched nerve doctor
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The first step in treating a pinched nerve is meeting with your doctor. Dr. Axe explains:

To help make a diagnosis of a pinched nerve, your doctor will likely perform: a physical exam, testing reflexes, tenderness and pain; assessment of your medical history, family history and injuries; tests for muscle strength or weakness, testing for signs of muscle atrophy, twitching, numbness; testing pain based on motion, touch and pressure; testing joint dysfunction through moving your limbs and torso; diagnostic tests, including CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to look at disc alignment and configuration.

Doctors may then prescribe a variety of treatments, including surgery, steroids, and pain relievers.

Pinched Nerve Treatment #2: Get Enough Collagen

pinched nerve collagen
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There are also a variety of natural treatments for pinched nerves that you can try at home. The first of these treatments is a collagen repair diet.

Dr. Axe explains that collagen helps repair damaged tissue, which can cushion spaces between bones and joints and lead to reduced pressure and friction.

Some foods that contain collagen are bone broth, marshmallows, Jell-O, and other foods with gelatin.

Pinched Nerve Treatment #3: Opt For Foods With Antioxidants

pinched nerve antioxidants
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Antioxidants and other foods with anti-inflammatory properties can help the effects of aging, reduce oxidative stress, and supply minerals and vitamins that can help your body recover, explains Dr. Axe.

Some foods that are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories are organic fruits and veggies, and herbs like ginger, garlic, and turmeric.

Pinched Nerve Treatment #4: Get Your Omega-3s

pinched nerve omega 3
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Dr. Axe explains, “Eating omega-3 foods, such as wild-caught fish like salmon, grass-fed beef, chia seeds and flaxseeds, helps naturally control inflammation and reduce the effects of aging.”

Pinched Nerve Treatment #5: Correct Your Posture

pinched nerve posture
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Making your posture better can relieve a lot of pain caused by a pinched nerve.

Often times, the only treatment required for a pinched nerve is “simply resting the injured area and avoiding any activities that tend to worsen your symptoms,” explains WebMD.

Dr. Axe writes, “Proper posture is crucial for helping take unwanted stress off of delicate joints, especially joints that have been injured or under increased pressure for a long time.”

A physical therapist can help with your posture by teaching you ways to relieve pressure on certain parts of your body. They can also help strengthen your core, taking away pain.

Have you ever had a pinched nerve? Let us know in the comments below!

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