What is a Pinched Nerve in the Lower Back?


What Causes a Pinched Nerve in Lower Back Pain Patients?

By: Ehren Allen, PT

Many people use the terms “pinched nerve” when describing their back pain. But what does that really mean? A pinched nerve, specifically, means that there is some compression on the nerve itself

This may be the result of repetitive motions, like extending your back multiple times in a row while gardening, or from holding one positioning for a long period of time, like when you are bending forward to fix the kitchen sink. But where are nerves and how does this relate to your lower back pain? In the spine, there are disks that run between each of the vertebrae.

Pinched nerve in the lower back.Image of man reaching toward his painful low back

These disks have a risk of “bulging” or pushing through or around the ligaments on the sides of the vertebrae and causing compression on to the nerve. This situation is typically considered a disk herniation or more commonly called a pinched nerve in the lower or upper back. 

When a pinched nerve or herniated disc happens, you could experience pain in the lower back, low back hip pain, or even pain that travels down the leg.

Specifically, when there is compression or pinching on one of the nerve roots of the sciatic nerve, this is considered, sciatica. Sciatica is a common diagnosis for those with lower back pain. It is more of a symptom than a condition, as it is referring to lower back and low back hip pain that travels into the buttocks and down the leg.

A herniated disk or pinched nerve is commonly described by a patient has pain that is deep and sharp in nature. They report that the pain gets worse as it moves down the leg. A person with a herniated disk may or may not have lower back pain, specifically, but will most likely have limitations in range of motion and painful gait with walking. 

Watch where lower back pain begins.

How Long Does a Pinched Nerve Last? Do they Go Away on their Own?

Most of the time Lower Back Pain or a "Pinched Nerve" in the lower back resolves in 6 to 10 weeks.  The inflammation which causes the pain typically calms in that time.  In some cases, the pain may last longer and may have more severe symptoms such as loss of sensation or strength in part of the leg.  

How Do You Fix a Pinched Nerve?

The back pain remedy for most is activity modification. This is the same for nerve pain in the back and hip.  Gentle movements and good body mechanics may decrease pressure on nerve structures.. 

Patients with lower back pain resulting from a pinched nerve or herniated disk are encouraged to keep moving, consider anti-inflammatories and seek physical therapy for appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises.

Physical therapy activities are focused around flexibility and core stabilization. Flexibility of the hamstrings, hip flexors and piriformis are important to decrease the stress on the spine. Care must be taken when stretching with a pinched nerve so that there is not an incidental Sciatic Nerve Stretch, which may increase pain.  Core stabilization activities are equally as important to aid in reducing shearing forces on the spine.  Stabilization exercises are some of the  best exercises to help relieve the pinched nerve in your lower back. If you need physical therapy, JOI Rehab can help!

If conservative options do not help, injections of corticosteroids may help to decrease the pain.  Surgery is an option for severe situations if non-surgical options do not work.

If you are experiencing pain in the lower back and think you may have a pinched nerve, JOI has a team of experts ready to help!  From conservative care to advanced surgical options, JOI has the answers!

If you are interested in scheduling an appointment at JOI Rehab for physical therapy, call (904) 858-7045. Come see us!

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