A woman sitting on a bed, holding her back, where red lines are showing pain points.

Have a Sharp, Burning Pain? It Could Be a Pinched Nerve

What Does a Pinched Nerve Feel Like?

About 85 out of every 100,000 adults in the United States will experience a pinched nerve each year. In fact, a pinched nerve could potentially be the root cause of your pain. But how do you know? What does a pinched nerve feel like?

In this article, we’ll explore what exactly having a pinched nerve means, the symptoms of a pinched nerve, the causes of a pinched nerve, and how you can treat and prevent it. Let’s get straight to it!

What is a Pinched Nerve?

A pinched nerve is when a nerve comes under pressure due to surrounding structures or tissue. This can happen due to tight muscle, muscle spasms, inflammation, injury, and more. And this can happen at various spots in the human body.

A pinched nerve can occur in your wrist, lower back, neck, buttocks, and more. For example, sciatica is a common form of low back pain caused by a pinched nerve. The sciatic nerve runs down the legs. However, this nerve can come under pressure in the lower back or buttocks. A common example includes a tight piriformis muscle or a spastic piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle is a tiny muscle located in the buttocks. When it becomes aggravated, it can cause problems. It may press on the sciatic nerve, leading to pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in the legs.

Pinched Nerve Symptoms

So, what does a pinched nerve feel like? How do you know that’s what is causing your pain?

Typical pinched nerve symptoms include:

  • Reduce sensation or numbness in the area that the nerve serves
  • Burning, sharp, or aching pain
  • Radiating pain
  • Pins and needles or tingling sensations
  • Muscle weakness

Sometimes, individuals describe some of these symptoms as though their leg or hand has fallen asleep. Most people have felt similar sensations when they’ve laid on their hand or arm for too long or have crossed their legs for an extended period.

Pinched Nerve Causes

As previously mentioned above, a pinched nerve occurs when a nerve is compressed. This can happen due to:

  • Injury
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle tension or spasm
  • Stress
  • Overuse
  • Obesity
  • Other underlying conditions, such as a herniated disc

Treatment Options

Generally, treatment varies depending on what is causing your pinched nerve in the first place. However, in most cases, rest is recommended to prevent further aggravation and to allow time for your body to heal.

Common treatment options include:

Ice and Heat

This can help reduce pain and inflammation and lower any muscular tension contributing to your pinched nerve. Place the ice or heat on the area for 10–20 minutes at a time. You can choose whichever option feels best, or you can alternate between the two.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

These can help reduce your symptoms. However, NSAIDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, should never be taken longer than two weeks at a time.

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist can prescribe appropriate exercises to help alleviate your condition. They can further perform various manual therapy techniques that can help reduce your symptoms.

Splints or Cervical Collars

If re-aggravating the area is an issue, it may be wise to invest in a splint or cervical collar to immobilize the area and give the irritated area time to rest and heal.


This is often the last resort. If a pinched nerve hasn’t improved after months of treatment and after various treatment methods, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the pressure on your nerve. Surgery may also involve removing any structures that are aggravating the nerve.

Preventing a Pinched Nerve

As always, prevention is the best form of treatment. If you can halt pain before it happens, you’re always better off.

When it comes to a pinched nerve, you’ll want to focus on maintaining a good posture. This means sitting with your shoulders back and down, your feet planted on the ground, and your neck straight (this means no hunching over to look at a phone or work on your computer).

Further, maintaining a regular exercise routine involving flexibility exercises can go a long way. These can help reduce your risk of injury, which may lead to a pinched nerve.

If you’re performing repetitive activities, ensure you take plenty of breaks. Give your body time to rest and reset. This includes typing at your keyboard. You can also support your body during these activities. For instance, for typing, you can use wrist supports to ensure your wrist maintains a healthy position that is less likely to cause pain.

Lastly, maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight can place pressure on parts of the body, ultimately leading to a pinched nerve.

Prevent pain before it becomes a problem. Use the tips above to help you do just that. And if you’re already experiencing a pinched nerve, seek out the right treatment for it. This may involve visiting your family doctor or your local physical therapist. Get on track toward healing today!