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What is a pinched nerve?

A pinched nerve happens when a nerve becomes compressed by other tissues anywhere within the body. Nerves are particularly sensitive to any type of irritation potentially causing a significant amount of pain, numbness, and/or tingling. Common places for nerves to become pinched and where they enter and exit the spine or where they pass across a joint. Pinched nerves can become a serious health problem causing severe pain and disability if not treated.

The term "pinched nerve" describes one type of damage or injury to a nerve or a set of nerves. The injury may result from compression, constriction, or stretching. Symptoms include numbness, pins and needles or a burning sensation, and pain radiating outward from the injured area. One of the most common examples of a single compressed nerve is the feeling of having a foot or a hand "fall asleep." Pinched nerves can sometimes lead to other conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tennis elbow. The extent of such injuries may vary from minor, temporary damage to a more permanent condition. Early diagnosis is important to prevent further damage or complications. A pinched nerve is a common cause of on-the-job injury.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.