10 Tell-Tale Signs of a Pinched Nerve

Nerves run through the body like wires in a power grid.  They're responsible for making all the body's cells communicate with each other and work as a team.  Most of the time, they're protected from harm by bones and muscles, but sometimes, they get injured, trapped or pinched.  Pinched nerves (also called compressed nerves) send off a variety of warning symptoms from "just feeling weird," to outright pain. It depends on which nerves are involved and how badly they're compressed.  How do you know if you have a pinched nerve?   Watch out for these five signs:

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) says the term pinched nerve describes one type of damage or injury to a nerve or set of nerves. The injury may result from compression, constriction, or stretching. What does it feel like?  NINDS says pinched nerves usually demonstrate one or more of the following four symptoms:

1. Numbness

2. Pins and needles

3. Burning

4. Radiating pain to areas beyond the injured area.

Some patients complain their pinched nerve feels like:

5. A mild electrical shock or "zapping" sensation

6. Sharp aching

7. Like they whacked their "funny bone."

8. Cold sensations

In severe cases, patients may feel:

9. Weakness

10. Inability to use the muscle

Where do nerves get pinched? They can happen anywhere, but the most common pinched nerves that cause patients to complain and/or seek medical care are:

  • Hand or Foot "falls asleep" - This common sensation of numbness and tingling is due to temporary nerve compression. When the patient shifts their position, the nerves "wake up," sometimes with an uncomfortable aching sensation. This condition happens to everyone occasionally. It does not indicate real damage to the nerves and rarely requires medical attention (unless the hand or foot doesn't "wake up" on its own.
  • Sciatic Nerve - The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and runs from the spinal cord, down the buttock and hip, through the leg to the feet. A pinched sciatic nerve causes Sciatica and causes pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve path and its branches.
  • Carpel Tunnel - Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful progressive condition caused by compression of the median nerve (which runs from the forearm to the hand) in the wrist. This causes gradually increasing pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist, which sometimes radiates up the arm.If the compression continues too long, people might feel tingling during and decreased grip strength.
  • "Tennis Elbow" is caused by damage or inflammation in the bones, ligaments, muscles and/or tendons that create the elbow. This can damage or compress nerves in the elbow and cause radiating pain down the forearm.

Usually, pinched nerves heal themselves with rest and time. Contact your physician for further treatment if symptoms persist or worsen.


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

NINDS Pinched Nerve Information Page