Many readers are interested in the following topic: Causes and treatment of a pinched nerve in the back. We are happy to note, that our authors have already studied the modern research about the topic you are interested in. Based on the information provided in the latest medical digests, modern research and surveys, we provide extensive answer. Keep reading to find out more.
Symptoms of a pinched nerve in the upper back can include:
How to Reverse a Pinched (Compressed) Nerve in Lower Back
When it comes to healing from a pinched nerve in the lower back, early diagnosis is critical to prevent further damage and complications.
But what’s really confusing is that you’ll be offered the exact same pinched nerve “treatment”, whether you’re diagnosed earlier or later.
The average doctor will teach you absolutely nothing about fixing the root cause of your pinched nerve, how to heal it completely, and prevent it from coming back in a month or so.
This post may contain affiliate links, at no extra cost to you.
Here you’ll find the best alternative, safe and natural treatments for a lumbar back pinched nerve, and how to fix what’s been causing it in the first place.
- What Does a Pinched Nerve Feel Like?
- What Causes a Compressed Nerve?
- How Long Does a Pinched Nerve Last?
- 1. Inversion Table for a Pinched Nerve
- 2. Infrared Light Therapy for Pinched Nerves
- 3. Pinched Nerve Exercises & Stretches
- 4. Fixing the Root Cause
What Does a Pinched Nerve Feel Like?
Most people describe pinched nerves as a feeling of needles poking the body. A pinched nerve is a nerve that receives too much pressure from surrounding tissues (bones, cartilage) and as a result, becomes “pinched” and unable to transmit electric signals properly.
When this nerve finally “gives up” and stops working – you feel tingling/pins and needles, burning and shooting pains (down your legs) along with feelings of numbness or muscle weakness.
What Causes a Compressed Nerve?
A few common causes for lumbar pinched nerves are:
1. Repetitive motion
2. Holding the body in one position for long periods (sitting too much at work? see how to relieve back pain from sitting )
3. Bulging / herniated discs .
4. Arthritis of the spine.
But when we look at these causes through the holistic approach, we see that all of these causes have the same root cause: muscle Imbalances.
The important thing to understand is that a pinched nerve, or Sciatica, is not a condition or a disease.
It’s just a symptom of something else.
Much like coughing is a symptom of pneumonia. If you want to stop the coughing, the smart way to go is to cure pneumonia, not just swallow coughing syrup.
We’ll get to that later, and see how to reverse it – easily and at home.
How Long Does a Pinched Nerve Last?
Pinched nerve recovery time depends on both the amount of damage and the type of treatment you choose. 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.
But by treatment, I mean alternative treatment. Pain medication is not treatment.
The 3 Best Ways to Heal a Pinched Nerve (at Home)
Treating a lumbar pinched nerve naturally can be done in 3 easy steps:
- Inversion therapy
- Low back pinched nerve exercises
- Infrared light therapy
1. Inversion Table for a Pinched Nerve
At a cost equivalent to a couple of visits to a chiropractor, an inversion table can naturally relieve low back pinched nerve pain, potentially avoiding the need for office visits and pills.
Inverting 2-3 times a day, at an angle of 60 degrees or more, helps release the muscles that contribute to pinched nerves, and allows the spine to decompress and stretch the tight muscles that support the spine.
The spinal discs can rehydrate with fluid and increase the space between each vertebra, creating more room for the nerves that pass through openings in the spinal column.
👉 See the 4 best-value inversion tables for back pain – in 2023.
Inversion Table Alternatives
If you are one of the people who feel an inversion table is not for them, there are great alternatives for inverting, that can produce the same effect.
Our top recommendation for inversion table alternatives is the Stamina Inline Traction System, which can be just as effective, and doesn’t require hanging upside down.
2. Infrared Light Therapy for Pinched Nerves
In my experience and through my research, the ultimate natural pain relief method is i nfrared light therapy .
A simple infrared heating pad can relieve your pain naturally in a matter of 30 minutes, for about 6 hours – without medication.
Infrared rays (invisible red light rays, part of the sun’s light spectrum) penetrate deep into your tissues, all the way to your bones, quickly boost circulation in the area and promote the arrival of pain-relieving and healing nutrients via your blood.
Infrared therapy can be a powerful and safe pain-relieving method and no side effects were found in research until today.
👉 I love this therapy so much that I have a dedicated blog about it – Infrared-Light-Therapy.com
3. Pinched Nerve Exercises & Stretches
One of the best ways to relieve and heal the lumbar pinched nerve is by doing a few daily stretches.
Not only do they relieve pain and help heal the damaged nerve, but they also help prevent the injury from recurring.
Here are the 3 best pinched nerve stretches:
- Hamstring stretch – start in a sitting position, then lean forward and try to touch your toes. Hold for 1-3 seconds and slowly sit up straight. Repeat 3-5 times. This gently stretched your hamstrings.
- Side stretch – stand with your hands on your hips, in a straight (but comfortable) position. Stretch your lower back gently by leaning to your right side, and then to your left side. Repeat 5 times on each side.
- Core twist – start in a sitting position with your legs placed at shoulder width. Place your left hand on your right knee and stretch your body forward to stretch your back muscles. Hold for 5-7 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Here’s a quick video demonstrating the best stretchers:
4. Fixing the Root Cause
Now that your pain is relieved, you can focus on treating the root cause of your pinched nerve.
The best way to do that is by rebuilding the support structure of your back.
A healthy back comes from within. You can’t fix it with a pill. You can’t get it from a gadget. And the surgeon can’t install it on the operating table (too many back surgeries fail or produce no results at best).
Consider physically rebuilding your “back support system”.
In simpler terms – restore the muscle balance in your lower back.
You can learn more about muscle imbalances, how they caused your pinched nerve in the first place, and how to fix them HERE .
To your health and happiness,
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43 thoughts on “How to Reverse a Pinched (Compressed) Nerve in Lower Back”
I have spinal stenosis, a herniated disc and a pinched nerve that is causing me leg pain and weakness. I have had a selective steroid injection and an epidural injection which helped for about a week each time. PT makes me worse the next day. My legs are weak and painful and it seems surgery might be the only option left, which I don’t want to have. What do you suggest for me? Reply
Danny Davis Jr.
Diagnosis: Spinal Stenosis, diagnosis I have been diagnosed with Spinal Stenosis and prescribed Gabapentin 3 times daily, a total 9, Hydrocodone 1 time daily (as needed) Cyclobenzaprine, 1 time daily, Malaxacan 1 times daily. Completed Physical Therapy, Chiropractic Treatment 1 time weekly and the nerve continues to be compressed. Reply
Maybe it’s time to try some natural solutions Danny…good luck! Reply
Hi I’m 19 years old and am having server back pain. It started about 6 months ago I was doing dumbbell squats (dumbbell between begs and squatting). I decided to use a 35-pound dumbbell instead of the 25 i normally use. I felt the muscle in my back on my left side pull and stoped. I tried to heal the muscle at home using icy hot, heating pad and then massaging it. Weeks past and it wasnt feeling better, I went for a walk with my dog and felt the pain move to my lower back (same side) but right above my pelvis if not on my pelivs. I went to the chiropractor, he was no help i felt like he was scamming me. Its been about 5 weeks since then and I’m about to make an appointment with a neuro pain management doctor. Do you have any insite or suggestions for my pain? Again im 19 years old and can’t go threw out my day without pain. Every night im ending my day with heating pads or ice. Reply
First I would stop with the icing since it’s not a new injury by now. You need to increase blood flow to the area through heat. I would also change the regular heating pad to an infrared heating pad and use it for 30-40 minutes every day. There is probably an inflammation in the area from the injury and your body is having trouble healing it. I would help it via lots of heat. Reply
I have disc protrusion at L-3-4 and L4-5, slight disc bulge at L2–3 and L4-5. Symptoms include numbness, pain and tingling sensation on my legs and knee pain. Medications and physical therapy did not help. Am currently applying self therapy by myself as this is better than what I get from the registered services that I used to visit .
What else can I try other than surgery? Any suggestions?
My problem started long back in June 1998 when I used to be active in military training to include bargain march at 100 to 70 kgs weight at prolonged distances battle simulated obstacles crossing and other straining exercises, both my legs looks normal, but the right leg has excruciating pains that shots down from the hip to the knee finally to the calf when I walk or stand I do feel numbness on the same leg, the pain would improve when I seat down. I had compressed nerve and sent me to a neurologist who ordered MRI of lower back. Reply Reply
I would try back traction to heal the discs faster, and infrared therapy for the pain. Reply
I have disc protrusion at L-3-4 and L4-5, slight disc bulge at L2–3 and L4-5. Symptoms include numbness, pain and tingling sensation on my legs and knee pain. Medications and physical therapy did not help. Am currently visiting a physical medicine practice where I get DRX 9000 decompression(20 sessions so far), high beam therapy, injections to lower back, chiropractic manual adjustments and still not much relief. What else can I try other than surgery? Any suggestions?
My problem started in June 2017 when I tore my right quad muscle and had to have surgery to repair the quad tendon. After I was discharged from physical therapy, the quad muscle refused to regain good strength even after one year working with a personal trainer at the gym. Instead, the affected thigh is getting smaller. My primary care doctor suspected I had compressed nerve and sent me to a neurologist who ordered MRI of lower back. Reply
I would try to fix the root cause for disc problems – which is strengthening your back muscles. When the back muscles are not strong enough they do not support the spinal discs and that’s when the disc bulge happens, and then the nerve compression. Reply
Use Tylenol 3 x’s a day for the pain in my back. Doctor does not want me to use any other pills. Am 83 yrs always active with sports. Now, I can barely walk 9 holes golf without fatigue in back and legs. Xrays revealed bone spurs lower spine. Have done physio, and use heating pads and ice. Pain radiates down my left leg, can only put minimum pressure when walking. My leg muscles feels weak and my walking gait is not normal. Any suggestions. Reply
I would suggest using an infrared heating pad instead of a regular heating pad – to allow the heat to reach all the way to your bones. Also, daily lower back stretches can be very helpful. This is a temporary situation and your body will heal soon, especially since you are a fit, active person. Reply
I have suffered for over 4 years . After many many drs .. injections .. pills .. acupuncture .. physical therapy .. you name it I’ve done it. Now I have been told I have a damaged l5 S1 nerve and I need a DRG implant. I’ve been fighting against this for almost a year. There is nothing wrong with my discs . MRI’s (many) show this is not disc compression causing this. The sheath is gone and they tell me it cannot heal itself . The pain down my leg and in my toes is unbearable. I haven’t been able to wear boots or closed in shoes since I hurt my back. If you have any ideas that will help me I would greatly appreciate it. I do not want this implant in my back. Thank you . Reply
Yes, I have an idea for an alternative treatment for you, please see this article: https://www.infrared-light-therapy.com/infrared-light-therapy-neuropathy/ Reply
This pain came out of no where. It feels like a tightening feeling in the lower part of my spine and then I get this intense feeling to the right of my spine. It’s so bad my 8 year old daughter puts my shoes Nd pants on. Sitting in my chair all day at work is unbearable for me. I went to the ER and the doctor called it a muscle spasm. I need help! Reply
Patricia, You seem to know the cause of this – sitting all day.
There are many solutions for this common problem. First, to relieve the pain now use an infrared light therapy heating pad and an infrared massager.
Here’s a post about how to prevent back pain from sitting all together: https://pain-in-lower-back.com/lower-back-pain-sitting/ Reply
I have osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, rhumetoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, bulging and herniated discs, spinal stenosis, thyroid issues, and goodness only knows what else?? I’m taking meds to keep the rhumetoid, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis from getting worse, however I have a pinched nerve in lower back and after dinner and dishes my upper back gets bad as well I need help figuring out what to do for keep pain and pinched nerve from getting worse, walking and light exercise help, however having hard time getting around with the pinched nerve, any suggestions appreciated. Thank you Reply
Teresa, I would suggest trying the options mentioned in the post. Good luck! Reply
Hello, my lower back is crazy pained. I I’ve read countless ideas, problems, concerns all over net. This page was most helpful. One question, can just a regular heating pad, not infared suffice this result which is spoken of? Thanks. Reply
Dan, It can help, but it will stop working the minute you turn it off. The infrared one has long term benefits and can help you be pain free from 6 hours after you’ve finished using it. The infrared rays penetrate deeper into your muscles and tissues and promotes blood circulation and healing. Reply
use cold compresses and go see a chiropractor. i had really low back pain then it started going down my leg, the chiropractor has really help me today was my second viset and i have to go fri. Reply
BE CAREFUL with the inversion therapy. It has make it terribly worse for me. I have a bulging disc L5/S1 I wanted to try it for decompressing the spine. Pinched nerved down the leg wasn’t among the symptomatology at all. So I tried a device much like that one in the picture. I didn’t even go all the way or anything and it fucked me big big time. I still have no idea why, but this movement ACTUALLY PINCHED my nerve. Insane pain down the leg, very hard to even walk etc.This was two months ago and it’s only now starting to get better. It feels like nothing really helps just time and the natural healing process of the body so to speak. Reply
I have a long term pinched nerve at L5 S1. An MRI has revealed that the substance contained within one of my herniated disc has adhered to the thecal sac causing the nerve to have stopped it’s function, resulting in left leg calf muscle wasting , a numb left foot and burning pain in my left heel. Is it possible to repair this? Reply
Patrick, I am not a doctor, but I believe that anything can be repaired, or at least improved greatly. I would suggest low level laser therapy which was proven to regenerate nerves, and more importantly – Back traction to allow your herniated disc to heal, which can reverse this whole situation.
Here’s my article about how to do back traction at home, I hope it helps:
Hi,I have a pinch nerve on my mid back just below the right wing the pain shoots up to my neck. Is there anyone out there that has or had this problem that can give me some tips to help heal it natural I’m at the point of considering surgery Help. Also considering buying a teether hang up but is it worth the $$$ Thankx Reply
Carlos, I think that an inversion table or a different traction device (like the nubax trio) can be very helpful for you.
If you don’t want to spend the money on it you can try a basic stretching device like the TrueBack home device and see how this mild traction helps first.
I would also recommend an infrared heating pad as a natural pain management system that has great results.
Good luck! Reply
I have suffered for years with lower back pain after fracturing my coccyx at 16. At 35, my L3 ruptured. At that point my only option was surgery and expected with my health and age to be back to my life in a few months. A year later, the top of the fusion still hadn’t healed. I was given permanent disability status. After a second surgery to clean up and refuse the top, I finally healed two years later after my son was born. I went back to trial work and slowly noticed my pain coming back. Right before my wedding I was told I had a new herniated disc of L5, S1. A year later it ruptured and after a lengthy discussion with my doctor, it was decided to fuse from L3 to S1. I still have a lot of localized pain but no radiating pain around my abdomen, none down my legs, etc. After a year of still being pain and taking a short acting narcotic, my family physician recommended a pain clinic. I am on a pill form nerve blocker (my leg pain came back and my ortho saw that some of the bone growth was invading the nerve canal but felt if the nerve blocker controlled it, it would save me another surgery), was on Fetanyl patch, Hydrocodone, Meloxicam (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory), Flexeril for muscle spasms. I was able to get away from the Meloxicam as it did nothing. I had to give up the patch when my husband lost his job and with it our insurance. But it was good because the nerve blocker worked and I got down to twice a day Hydrocodone. But I hated it. I recently switched to a non-narcotic Ultram which works longer with the nerve blocker. Last week I had a lot of boxes to move and unpack since we moved from NY to FL. Saturday I had such bad sciatica I stumbled around. Now it is a constant throbbing pain in my upper top thigh and lower calf of my right leg and top of my right foot. Sometimes stabbing pain running down my butt cheek and down the back of my leg. It is unbearable and constant. Just tonight I noticed some of the same pain in my upper top thigh on my left leg. I don’t know what is suddenly happening but something has changed for the worst again and I am tired of drugs and surgeries. Reply
Kimberly, Thanks for sharing your experience with us, and I’m sorry you’re going through this and is in such pain.
Maybe you can consult with your doctors about more natural approaches – Such as physical therapy, back traction etc – To see if they are safe for you after your surgeries. If they are, I would give them a try…your body may still surprise you with its amazing healing abilities.
Don’t lose hope and stay strong. You will find the solution. Meital Reply
i I have has a stiff soreness in my lower back for a few months. Really sore and painful when I try an do squats at the gym or at home. I have an herniated disk and when I used inversion table it is extremely painful and stiff to lean forward just to unlock my feet and get off. Is this normal and can you give recommendations on how long to hang and how often? Also heat versus ice? Thanks Reply
Angie, As for inverting, you can ask someone to help you get off the inversion table so you won’t suffer the pain. You are supposed to feel dramatic pain relief after using it, if you are not getting that after a few times, inversion may not b e a good idea for you. Generally, you start with just a few minutes every day – about 5 minutes at a low angle – And work your way up, every day another minute. But only if you feel results. As for heat vs. ice – Ice is better fitted for just after injuring yourself – In your situation I would use heat – But just “regular” heat – Infrared heat. An infrared heating pad is an amaing drug-free way to relieve back pain and that’s why I have written about it in the article above. I hope this helps and hang in there – You’re going to get better soon. Reply
I have a herniated disc in the L5 area of my back. I went to a chiropractor because it was causing me some pain in my right leg. Previously, I had gone for therapy for this cause and I was told to do hip raisers which ultimately caused pain in my right buttocks and upper right leg. I then went to the Cleveland Clinic to see a spine surgeon. He told me that he would not do any surgery on me because my bones were not good enough. He then prescribed Neurontin which has not done me a bit of good. I was told that I had a pinched nerve and am now trying to get this thing fixed but do not know who can help me. Reply
I have a Hang Ups Inverion table. I’ve been using this for 17 yeats. I would recommend the Sports model and highly recommend inversion. I also have the Gravity Boots which I use at the gym. I believe you will have success with this. Good luck. Reply
Thanks David, for sharing your personal experience with us!:) Reply
Hey there. So I’m 14, and have had this shooting pain from my lower back down through my legs (my left is very significantly worse than my right). This only began when I began participating in this years school basketball team. Is there anything else it could be aside from a pinched nerve, and how do you locate where the pinched nerve is? I haven’t gone to a doctor yet and this has been going on for 2-3 weeks now. Do you think there is possible damage? Please let me know. Reply
Mikayla, I think it definitely has to do with basketball practice, and I wouldn’t call it “damage” but it’s probably a sports injury. Why not go to a doctor and diagnose it? And most importantly – I wouldn’t continue with sports until you diagnose the problem to make sure you don’t cause further injury. It could be multiple things – All treatable and with proper rest it will probably go away on its own.
But I’m not a doctor and you should see one, o,k?:) Good luck! Reply
Causes and treatment of a pinched nerve in the back
An injury, a herniated disc, or an underlying medical condition can cause a pinched nerve in the back — resulting in pain, numbness, or tingling sensations.
The symptoms of a pinched nerve in the back sometimes also affect surrounding areas.
Below, we investigate what a pinched nerve in the back is, what it may feel like, and when to see a doctor. We also explore the causes and treatments, as well as exercises that may help.
Nerves in the spine can be compressed by surrounding bone or tissue. If this happens, a person has a pinched nerve in their back.
Nerves are responsible for sending signals to the brain. When a nerve is compressed, the pressure disrupts the signals, resulting in symptoms.
A pinched nerve often causes pain, numbness, and tingling. The location of these symptoms depends on that of the compressed nerve.
If a pinched nerve is at the top of the spine, symptoms may affect the neck or arms. Doctors call this issue cervical radiculopathy.
Symptoms of a pinched nerve in the upper back can include:
- pain that starts in the neck and may travel down the arm
- tingling sensations in the hand, or specifically the fingers
- weakness in the arm, shoulder, or hand
Nerves in the lower back can also become compressed. Doctors refer to this as lumbar radiculopathy. This condition often manifests as sciatica.
Symptoms of a pinched nerve in the lower back can include:
- pain that radiates from the lower back to the legs or feet
- numbness and tingling in the legs or feet
- muscle spasms or weakness
If a person does not experience tingling or numbness, they may have a different type of back pain, such as muscle pain. This can occur due to wear and tear, sprains, or weakness.
An injury can damage tissues in the spine or cause them to become inflamed. In either case, it can put pressure on the nerves.
Other causes of a pinched nerve in the back can include:
- A herniated disk: The disks between the vertebrae in the spine can become compressed and bulge, putting pressure on nearby nerves.
- Spinal stenosis: This refers to a narrowing of the spinal column, which puts excess pressure on the nerves around the spinal cord.
- Arthritis: This causes inflammation around joints and bones, which can increase pressure on nerves in the spine.
- Bone spurs: A bone spur is an extra growth of bone, which can form on the spine and compress surrounding nerves, causing reoccurring episodes of pain.
- Spondylolisthesis: This involves a vertebra in the lower spine dislodging and pinching nerves.
- Infection: The vertebrae or disks of the spine can become infected, leading to inflammation and nerve pain.
Certain factors make developing back pain more likely. They include :
- Aging: The disks between the vertebrae lose their ability to cushion with age, increasing a person’s risk of a pinched nerve. Spinal stenosis also becomes more likely with age.
- Physical fitness: People who do little exercise or who have weaker abdominal muscles are more likely to develop back pain, possibly from an injury. The same is true for people who are generally inactive but then try intense physical exercise.
- Overweight or obesity: Both place extra strain on the back, making back pain more likely.
- Uneven posture: If the neck, shoulders, spinal column, or hips are out of alignment for prolonged periods, it can place pressure on nerves in the back.
A doctor may be able to diagnose a pinched nerve with only a physical examination. They may also perform tests to check the person’s reflexes and muscle movement.
The doctor may ask the person to demonstrate their range of motion, such as by lifting a leg while keeping it straight. This can also indicate which movements trigger pain. All of this information can help with a diagnosis.
In some cases, the doctor may need further tests to determine the exact location and cause of a pinched nerve. Tests may include:
- an X-ray, which can show structural problems, such as bone spurs
- an MRI, which can show the condition of the spinal cord, disks, and nerves
- a CT scan to examine the spinal structures
- electromyography, which shows the electrical impulses of muscles
The right treatment depends on the severity and cause of a pinched nerve.
Some people can treat a pinched nerve in the back at home, while others require professional treatment. Recovery may take days or weeks.
Plenty of rest and gentle movements can help the body repair. Avoiding strenuous exercise and heavy lifting is key to supporting recovery and preventing further damage.
Over-the-counter pain relief medication, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, may help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
If a person has pain in the top of the spine, a cervical collar may help. This is a soft, padded support structure that wraps around the neck, helping the neck muscles rest and relieving nerve pressure caused by neck movement.
When pressure on a nerve is severe or chronic, a doctor may suggest oral or injected steroids to reduce swelling and pain, particularly any that radiates to the lower body.
Some people require surgery to correct the cause of pressure and stabilize the spine.
Pinched Nerve in the Lower Back: What to Know
A pinched nerve in your lower back happens because of pressure on the nerves near the vertebrae in the spine. You may notice a range of symptoms, including sharp pain and numbness.
A pinched nerve in your lower back occurs when there’s excessive pressure on the nerves near the last five vertebrae in your back. This condition can be painful and may gradually impact your overall quality of life.
If you’re experiencing ongoing pain in your lower back despite rest, it’s important to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Learn more about the possible symptoms and causes of a pinched nerve in your lower back and what treatment measures your doctor may recommend for both short-term and long-term relief.
There are several symptoms you may experience with a pinched nerve in your lower back, including sharp pain and numbness. The pains may come and go, creating stabbing sensations.
Additionally, you may also experience:
- muscle spasms
- reflex loss
Sciatica describes symptoms that relate to issues with the sciatic nerve that extends between your lower back and feet. When the sciatic nerve is either injured or compressed, you may experience sciatica.
Sciatica causes sharp pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness that may occur in the following areas:
- lower back
- feet and ankles
Symptoms of sciatica tend to worsen when you make sudden movements, such as sneezing. The pain may also be significant enough to interfere with everyday movements, such as walking.
Additionally, you may experience tingling sensations between your lower back and ankles that feels like “pins and needles.”
As a rule of thumb, if you have pain in the lower back only, you likely don’t have sciatica.
A pinched nerve in your back may seemingly appear out of nowhere, or it could be the result of a traumatic injury, such as a fall.
You’re more likely to experience symptoms if you’re between ages 30 and 50. This is because your vertebrae compress with age, and the discs in your vertebrae degenerate over time.
Another common cause of a pinched nerve in the lower back is a herniated disc. You may experience this condition because of aging, a defect in your vertebrae, or wear-and-tear. Men ages 20 to 50 are at a higher risk of developing a herniated disc.
Other possible causes of a pinched nerve in the lower back include:
- bulging disc
- spinal stenosis
- bone spur formation (osteophytosis)
- foraminal stenosis
- rheumatoid arthritis
Risk factors for a pinched nerve
Aside from normal wear-and-tear with age, other risk factors could contribute to pinched nerve in the lower back, such as:
- poor posture, especially from computer work
- not getting enough regular exercise
- improper lifting
- repetitive movements
- overweight or obesity
Your doctor will first ask you about your symptoms. It’s important to provide as many details as you can, such as how long you’ve been experiencing pain and discomfort, how it’s affecting your quality of life, and whether you’ve recently experienced any recent injuries.
Next, your doctor will look for physical signs of trauma or other issues in your low back by checking for possible:
- limited range of motion
- balance problems
- changes to reflexes in your legs
- weakness in the muscles
- changes in sensation in the lower extremities
Your doctor may not be able to diagnose the pinched nerve from a physical examination alone. Additionally, they may want to know more about the cause of the pinched nerve.
They may order the following tests to get more information:
- X-ray:shows the bones in your vertebrae
- MRI:shows your soft tissues, including the discs in your vertebrae, your spinal cord, and the nerves in your lower back
- CT scan:shows a very detailed picture of your lower back and can be used to evaluate bony structures and muscles
Such imaging tests are typically ordered in the case of long-term symptoms only. For example, doctors may not order imaging tests for sciatica unless symptoms last for 12 weeks or more .
Once your doctor diagnoses the pinched nerve in your lower back, you can begin to consider treatment. Options may include a combination of:
- over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers
- physical therapy
- other lifestyle adjustments
Sometimes your doctor will need to treat the pinched nerve with more invasive measures, such as spinal injections or surgery.
Your doctor will likely recommend noninvasive, baseline treatments for your pinched nerve first. In most cases, nonsurgical measures will relieve your symptoms.
Keep in mind that it can take several weeks for treatment to take effect before your doctor may consider more invasive treatment options.
If your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you may try OTC nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to treat the pinched nerve first. These types of medications can lessen inflammation and reduce pain.
Your doctor may also prescribe oral steroids to treat the condition if NSAIDs and other treatments are ineffective.
You may work with a physical therapist to target the symptoms caused by your pinched nerve. Your physical therapist will provide you with instructions for stretches and exercises that will stabilize your spine.
Your doctor may recommend that you make lifestyle modifications to help with the symptoms of a pinched nerve in your lower back. Some of these treatments may help in your management plan.
- Activity modification. You may find that certain seated positions or activities that cause you to twist or lift make your pinched nerve worse. Your doctor may recommend you avoid these activities for a period of time to alleviate symptoms.
- Ice and heat. Applying ice or heat for 20 minutes a few times a day may reduce pain and muscle spasms. If you’ve recently experienced a low back injury, however, avoid applying heat for 48 hours.
- Frequent movement. Exercising regularly may help avoid the onset of nerve pain or relive symptoms. You may also try light yoga or tai chi as forms of light exercise that still help build strength and flexibility.
- Sleeping position modifications. Your sleeping position may aggravate the symptoms of your nerve pain. Discuss the best sleeping position for the pain with your doctor and determine how to practice proper sleeping habits. This may include adjusting your sleeping position or sleeping with a pillow between your legs.
Higher level treatments
When the baseline treatments for a pinched nerve don’t offer relief, your doctor may recommend more aggressive strategies for treatment.
Your doctor may recommend an injectable steroid if your symptoms persist. You can treat severe pain by receiving an epidural injection of steroids in your doctor’s office or under fluoroscopy in an X-ray department. This can relieve swelling and other symptoms in the affected area.
The last resort for treating a pinched nerve in your lower back is to undergo surgery. There are many surgical methods, and your doctor will recommend a procedure that will target the cause of the condition.
For example, a herniated disc in your lower back may be treated with a microdiscectomy. This procedure involves a small incision in your back.
Keep in mind that surgeries come with risks and sometimes long recovery periods, so you’ll want to try less invasive methods before opting for surgery.
Always discuss any stretches and exercises you may be considering with your doctor before you try them. You want to make sure you don’t worsen your symptoms or do anything that causes more pain.
Use a yoga mat, towel, or carpet to lie on when engaging in these stretches. You should do two to three repetitions of these stretches each time, and make sure to take deep breaths while stretching.
1. Knees to chest
- Lie on the floor.
- Bend both knees and point them up toward the ceiling. Your feet should be on the floor.
- Bring your knees up to your chest and hold them there for 10 to 20 seconds.
- Release your legs and return your feet to the floor in the knees bent position.
2. Mobilizing stretch
- Keep the same inactive position as in the knee to chest stretch.
- Instead of bringing your knee to your chest, extend your leg so your foot points to the ceiling — don’t point your toe.
- Hold it in the air for 20 to 30 seconds and then release the hold.
- Repeat this with the other leg.
3. Gluteal stretch
This exercise also begins in the same position with head support and knees pointed to the ceiling.
- Bring one of your legs up and rest your foot on your other bent leg. The knee of your raised leg will be perpendicular to your body.
- Grab the thigh that’s holding up your foot and pull it toward your chest and head.
- Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds and release.
- Repeat this on the other side of your body.
Any chronic (ongoing) low back pain ought to be checked by a doctor, especially if your symptoms interfere with your daily activities. By properly identifying a pinched nerve and the possible underlying cause, your doctor can then direct you to treatments that can help.
If you’re currently undergoing treatment for a pinched nerve in your lower back, it’s also important to see your doctor if symptoms worsen or don’t improve within 4 to 6 weeks.
There are many possible treatments for a pinched nerve in your lower back. You’ll want to try baseline approaches at home before pursuing more invasive methods of treatment.
Using NSAIDs, stretching and staying active, and resting your back may be the first line of treatment for your condition.
Make an appointment with a doctor if your pain is persistent or severe.
Last medically reviewed on January 4, 2022