How to Locate a Pinched Nerve


A pinched nerve is a nerve that has been damaged due to compression by surrounding tissues, such as cartilage or bone. The pressure causes the signal being sent along the nerve to be disrupted. It is often the result of another medical condition, such as a herniated disc in the lower spine. To locate a pinched nerve, you first must identify the signs.

Things You'll Need

  • Physician
  • X-ray
  • MRI
A pinched nerve is fairly painful.
A pinched nerve is fairly painful. (Image: diego cervo/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 1

Recognize your symptoms to determine where you might have developed a pinched nerve. A pinched nerve can occur anywhere in the body. Common symptoms are radiating pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness around the nerve, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. It is common to feel the symptoms down the path of the nerve. • According to Dr. Jason C. Eck, if it is in the neck, you will usually feel pain, neck stiffness and pain radiating down your arm. • A pinched nerve in the lower back causes pain and stiffness in your back as well as down the back of your leg. • If it is your wrist or hand, it often will cause pain and weakness in your index finger, middle finger and thumb. • If it is in the elbow, your forearm will be affected, along with the ring finger and pinkie.

Identify the pain
Identify the pain (Image: nebari/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 2

Consider other known medical conditions. You may be able to locate the nerve that is being compressed. For example, a pinched nerve in the wrist can be caused by carpal tunnel syndrome, which many workers get from repetitive activities such as typing.

Make sure it pain is not caused by something else.
Make sure it pain is not caused by something else. (Image: marvinh/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 3

Visit your doctor. Answer his questions, such as: What are your symptoms? What positions make the symptoms worse? Where do you feel the symptoms? Let him know about your other medical conditions so he can assess the problem.

Let the doctor know about your pain.
Let the doctor know about your pain. (Image: Catherine Yeulet/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 4

Do a physical exam. Your doctor will test the strength of your muscles in the affected area as well as sensation.

The doctor will complete a physical exam.
The doctor will complete a physical exam. (Image: wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 5

Have X-rays. If your pinched nerve is suspected near the spine, an X-ray can show an injury or find arthritis. Other tests, such as an MRI, may be necessary in more severe cases. The imaging study could show more details and determine if there is nerve damage in the affected area.

An X-ray will show more detail.
An X-ray will show more detail. (Image: itsmejust/iStock/Getty Images)

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Tips & Warnings

  • If you are able to locate the pinched nerve in your body, then you can have it treated and make your way to recovery. There are noninvasive treatments such as rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory pain medications and splints or braces. Surgery may be necessary if you have severe symptoms or damage.


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