On average, a pinched nerve can last from just a few days to 4 to 6 weeks – or even longer in some cases (in which case you should see your doctor).
Given the severe pain and numbness that can occur with a pinched nerve, it’s understandable that you would want to do whatever you can to get rid of it as soon as possible.
A pinched nerve is caused by the pressure of the surrounding tissue, which puts too much strain on it.
Muscles, bones, cartilage, and tendons can all press against a nerve. This can lead to a loss of function of the affected nerve, which can then lead to the following symptoms:
Treating a pinched nerve is critical to your recovery time. More severe cases may require surgery.
If you suspect you may have a pinched nerve, read on to learn what steps you can take now to help and what to expect during your recovery.
The duration of a pinched nerve can depend on whether you’re looking for quick treatment and what is putting pressure on the nerve.
Recovery can also vary based on the location of the pinched nerve.
As a rule of thumb, a temporary trapped nerve case with an acute cause such as injury or poor posture can last for several days.
Cases related to chronic conditions like arthritis can last longer. In this case, you should see your doctor for a treatment plan.
Here’s what to expect from a pinched nerve in different parts of your body.
A pinched nerve in your neck can cause tingling and pain that can extend to your shoulders and arms. This type of pinched nerve can be caused by:
The pain will usually subside within a few days, unless the pinched nerve is caused by a chronic condition like arthritis.
A pinched nerve in the lower back is often associated with a herniated disc that compresses the nerve roots in this area. It can also be caused by arthritis or injury.
You may feel severe pain in your lower back, as well as your buttocks and the back of your leg. In fact, sciatica can be a symptom of a pinched nerve in your lower back.
Lower back pain can be acute and last a few days. However, if a pinched nerve doesn’t resolve, it can lead to chronic back pain that lasts for 12 weeks or more.
Your legs can develop pinched nerves from herniated discs in your back or injuries.
If left untreated, pinched nerves can lead to peripheral neuropathy. This can develop over several weeks or years.
A pinched nerve in the hip can last a few days if it is related to an injury.
If the pain persists for more than a few days, see your doctor. Possible causes of chronic hip pain can include:
Shoulder pain from a pinched nerve usually occurs in your upper spine as a result of:
One way you can tell by a pinched nerve rather than a pulled muscle is by the sudden sharpness of the pain. The pain also tends to be in one shoulder only.
Left untreated, arthritis or tendonitis of the shoulder can lead to chronic pain that can last for weeks, months, or years.
Frequent typing is often associated with pinched nerves in the wrist.
Pinched nerves in the wrist can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. This is when you experience pain and numbness spreading through your hand and fingers.
Pain that lasts more than 2 months may indicate other underlying problems, such as arthritis.
Treatment for a pinched nerve begins with home remedies that will help relieve:
- general discomfort
The sooner you treat a pinched nerve, the faster you can recover.
Here are a few home remedies that you can try right away:
In many cases, you can fix a pinched nerve at home without further treatment.
However, you should see your doctor if:
- Your symptoms last longer than a few days.
- Your symptoms are severe.
- The pinched nerve pain keeps coming back.
Your doctor will likely order imaging tests such as a CT scan, MRI scan, or x-rays. These are used to determine the extent of nerve damage as well as any problems with the surrounding tissue.
Medical treatment may be needed for severe pinched nerves that do not respond to home remedies. Your doctor may prescribe stronger NSAIDs or corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and pain.
Other medical treatments for pinched nerves include:
- Physiotherapy for pinched nerves that affect your mobility, including your lower back, shoulder, or neck. A physical therapist will guide you through stretches and exercises that you can do in the office and at home to relieve nerve compression and pain.
- Splints for your wrist or a ruff for your neck to help reduce mobility in these areas while healing.
- Surgery as a last resort, especially when a pinched nerve is permanently damaged.
Surgery is most commonly done for pinched nerves associated with spinal problems, but it can also be used in other cases such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Pinched nerves occur in about 85 out of 100,000 adults each year. Pinched nerves may become more common as you age due to tissue changes such as bone degeneration and arthritis.
Other risk factors that can cause the compression that leads to pinched nerves include:
After treatment, a pinched nerve is likely to go away unless the same body tissue is pressing against the affected nerve again.
Chronic compression can cause permanent nerve damage, so it is important to take preventative measures whenever possible.
You can prevent a pinched nerve in the following ways:
- Decrease. Obesity is a common risk factor for pinched nerves because excess body weight puts undue pressure on the nerves. Talk to your doctor about how to maintain a healthy weight over the long term.
- Take breaks from repetitive activities. If your work requires repetitive hand and arm movements, e.g. For example, computer, construction, or assembly line work, try to stop and stretch the affected limb as often as possible. The same strategy can be useful with certain sports activities such as tennis and baseball.
- Take frequent breaks in exercise. Avoid sitting and lying in one position for long periods of time to avoid putting undue pressure on your nerves.
- Maintain good posture. This includes standing up with your shoulders rolled back and tensing your core muscles to take less strain on your lower back. Avoid crossing your legs to relieve pressure in your lower limbs.
- Add strength and flexibility exercises to your training program. Resistance bands, light hand weights, and yoga stretches can all help strengthen your bones, joints, and muscles.
Depending on the location and severity, a pinched nerve can last a few days, several weeks or even longer.
In the most severe cases, repeated compression against the nerve can cause permanent damage.
Talk to your doctor if you have a pinched nerve that keeps coming back or lasts for more than several days.
Your doctor may order tests to determine the underlying causes of the nerve compression and help you with a treatment plan to prevent permanent damage.