Lower Back Pain From A Pinched Nerve

pinched nerve in back pain There are many causes of lower back pain and a pinched nerve can certainly be one of them. There are nerves running throughout your body and your spinal cord is rich in nerves. When one of those nerves gets ‘pinched’ , that means there is pressure or strain on the nerve causing damage or injury.

Symptoms of A Low Back Pinched Nerve

The most common symptoms of a pinched nerve in the lower back are:

  • Shooting pain
  • Numbness
  • A sensation of burning
  • A tingling or ‘pins and needles’ sensation, like when your foot falls asleep

Other symptoms include a weakness in the muscles that follow along the path of the pinched nerve. And you may experience a simple backache or back stiffness.

The symptoms really depend on the location of the nerve that is being compressed. It also depends on how severe the pressure on the nerve is.

What Causes A Pinched Nerve In The Lower Back

There are basically four things that can cause what we call a pinched nerve. A pinched nerve is either:

  • Under pressure
  • Being compressed
  • Being constricted
  • Being stretched

A herniated disc in the back can press or ‘pinch’ on the nerve. Arthritis and bone spurs can put pressure on the nerve. Spinal stenosis can compress the nerve. Swelling of the muscles and ligaments around the nerve can put pressure on the nerve.

How Serious is A Pinched Nerve

The majority of pinched nerves are not serious. Most people recover without any permanent symptoms. And most people recover with very simple treatments, such as rest, ice,  and therapy.

However, the longer you go with the symptoms of a pinched nerve without getting any treatment, the more damage you can cause to the muscles along the nerve. Your symptoms will get worse. The worse the symptoms get, the less of a chance for a full recovery.

Pinched Nerve Treatment

Because the lower back pain from a pinched nerve is not a serious condition in most people, the standard treatment is conservative treatment such as ice and rest.

Sometimes medication may be prescribed. An anti-inflammatory over the counter medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen will help to bring down the swelling around the nerve.

There are some medications that may be ordered for nerve-related pain. These include Lyrica or Neurotin. The generic names for these are gabapentin or pregabalin.

Your healthcare practitioner may order physical therapy for you. Therapy can work to stretch and strengthen surrounding muscles. This helps to relieve the pressure that is on the pinched nerve.

Surgery may be necessary if symptoms from the pinched nerve don’t improve with conservative treatment. You may also need surgery if your symptoms become worse or if there are signs of more serious nerve damage. These signs may include a loss of bowel or bladder control or a loss of any sensation in your leg(s).

Exercises For A Pinched Nerve In the Lower Back

Before you begin any exercises for a possible pinched nerve in your lower back, always get the ok from your doctor.

The type of exercises that can help a pinched nerve are gentle stretching exercises. The stretching can help to reduce the pressure on the nerve, which will alleviate the pain and numbness you may feel. Stretching works by pulling the muscles away from the nerve.

The exercises will also help to strengthen the muscles around the spine and this will help to relieve the pressure being placed on the nerve. Exercises that may be beneficial are:

  • The pelvic tilt
  • The knee to chest stretch
  • Lower trunk rotation
  • The hamstring stretch
  • The bridge

How Can You Prevent a Pinched Nerve

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and that applies to preventing lower back pinched nerves, too. Here are some tips for a healthier back, courtesy of the National Institutes of Health:

Quick tips to a healthier back

Following any period of prolonged inactivity, begin a program of regular low-impact exercises. Speed walking, swimming, or stationary bike riding 30 minutes a day can increase muscle strength and flexibility. Yoga can also help stretch and strengthen muscles and improve posture. Ask your physician or orthopedist for a list of low-impact exercises appropriate for your age and designed to strengthen lower back and abdominal muscles.

  • Always stretch before exercise or other strenuous physical activity.
  • Don’t slouch when standing or sitting. When standing, keep your weight balanced on your feet. Your back supports weight most easily when curvature is reduced.
  • At home or work, make sure your work surface is at a comfortable height for you.
  • Sit in a chair with good lumbar support and proper position and height for the task. Keep your shoulders back. Switch sitting positions often and periodically walk around the office or gently stretch muscles to relieve tension. A pillow or rolled-up towel placed behind the small of your back can provide some lumbar support. If you must sit for a long period of time, rest your feet on a low stool or a stack of books.
  • Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
  • Sleep on your side to reduce any curve in your spine. Always sleep on a firm surface.
  • Ask for help when transferring an ill or injured family member from a reclining to a sitting position or when moving the patient from a chair to a bed.
  • Don’t try to lift objects too heavy for you. Lift with your knees, pull in your stomach muscles, and keep your head down and in line with your straight back. Keep the object close to your body. Do not twist when lifting.
  • Maintain proper nutrition and diet to reduce and prevent excessive weight, especially weight around the waistline that taxes lower back muscles. A diet with sufficient daily intake of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D helps to promote new bone growth.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking reduces blood flow to the lower spine and causes the spinal discs to degenerate.

Maintaining a healthy back should be a part of your healthy lifestyle. A pinched nerve in the lower back is often preventable, saving you a lot in pain and suffering.