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Trapped nerve

What is a trapped nerve?

Trapped nerve describes back and other problems that happen when nerves get compressed, trapped or irritated, often between bones in the spine or neck. This is also called a pinched nerve or compressed nerve.

Nerves are the body's information highways - sending instructions to muscles from the brain and receiving reports back from the senses, such as touch.

Symptoms of trapped nerve

Symptoms of having a trapped nerve include:

  • Numbness, a sensation that the foot or hand has 'fallen asleep'
  • Burning pain
  • Pins and needles sensation
  • Pain radiating outwards from the trapped nerve
  • Muscle weakness, dropped foot
  • Back pain, sciatica.

The symptoms will vary depending on where the nerve is trapped, especially its location in the spine.

Causes of trapped nerve

A trapped nerve can be due to:


How is a trapped nerve diagnosed?

A diagnosis of trapped nerve will be based on:

  • Symptoms
  • Medical history, other health conditions
  • Any obvious causes, such as accidents
  • Physical examination
  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • Nerve conduction study, electromyography (EMG).

Diagnosis of trapped nerve can be made harder by the pain caused in one area being sensed in another.

Is there any treatment for a trapped nerve?

Treatment for trapped nerve will depend on the causes and individual circumstances, and includes:

  • Rest, avoiding aggravating the nerve
  • Ice, ice pack wrapped in a cloth placed on the affected area
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Physiotherapy
  • Splints or collars
  • Surgery.

Will trapped nerves go away?

Trapped nerve symptoms will usually improve after treatment, but if the pain returns further treatment may be required.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on August 22, 2016

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