What Causes a Pinched Nerve?

A pinched nerve is the term that refers to damage or obstruction to a nerve or a set of nerves. Pinched nerves can occur anywhere in the body and cause severe pain that prevents you from performing activities you once enjoyed.

There are many potential causes of pinched nerves. Inflammation from chronic dysfunction, overuse, irritation, injury or even a metabolic disease can pinch a nerve. Spinal disc herniation, muscle tightness, bone spurs, postural imbalances and arthritis may be at the root of the problem as well.

What is the Function of a Nerve?

Nerves send signals from the brain to the body to tell the muscles to contract or move, and they tell organs and systems how to perform their jobs. They also detect sensations which enables your brain to interpret these signals as pain, heat, cold, etc.

What is a Pinched Nerve?

When the nerve becomes damaged or obstructed, the signal may not reach its destination. It can also cause many different symptoms including numbness, tingling, weakness, loss of bowel and bladder control, limping, and nerve pain. In more serious conditions, the nerve may permanently lose function.

Common Conditions

There are several different types of pinched nerves that cause pain typically in the back and even traveling down the legs. Continue reading to learn more about the different types of pinched nerves and their symptoms.


This is the result of your sciatic nerve being irritated and compressed. While there are many potential causes, this can be due to a fall, injury, heavy weightlifting, or athletics. Other causes of sciatic nerve compression are using a wallet in your back pocket, sitting with 1 leg crossed over the other, or gait mechanics which deviate from normal.

The trademark symptom is pain shooting into the buttock and down the back or side of the leg. In addition, other symptoms include burning, numbness, or tingling down the leg or in the foot.

With sciatica, it may even become difficult to move the leg or foot.

Radiculitis and Radiculopathy

This condition occurs when a spinal nerve root is pinched near its exit location at the spine. Pain then radiates from the spine to other areas in the body which can include down the arm, across the ribs, or down the leg. The location of the pain depends on where the affected nerve is located in the body.

Common symptoms include pain, numbness, tingling, pins and needles sensation, burning, and weakness. They typically occur in either the arm or leg.

This is caused by an obstruction that pinched the nerve root such as a herniated disc, degenerated disc, thickening of bone or ligament, cysts, and tumors.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The most common symptom is numbness in the thumb, index, and middle fingers, making it very difficult to move them. In severe cases, the muscles at the base of the thumb become smaller and weaken.

Causes of carpal tunnel include injury, metabolic or systemic disease, and repetitive overuse of the wrist and hand, especially when the wrist is in the bent position.

The carpal tunnel is created in between the bones of the wrist, and the median nerve runs through this tunnel. It provides sensation to the palm, thumb, index and middle fingers, half of the ring finger, and muscle strength to the thumb.


The development of spinal stenosis typically results over time rather than due to a traumatic injury. As the spinal cord changes in shape and size throughout an abnormal aging process, pressure can be placed on the spinal cord. This pressure causes back pain or numbness, and tingling or weakness in the arms or legs.

When the shape and size of the spinal canal changes over time, ligaments around the spinal column thicken, bony spurs can develop, and discs may bulge, herniate, or be pushed back. These changes are often combine, causing stenosis.

If you’re dealing with any of these symptoms, click here to contact Aligned Medical Group for relief.

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