Most pinched nerves in the back or neck get better within a few weeks with rest and conservative treatment. Rest and stopping activities that caused the pinching or make it worse is the most common treatment.
Treatment varies, depending on the cause of the pinched nerve and how bad it is. Treatments include:
- Pain medicines: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen:
- NSAIDs like ibuprofen (e.g., Advil and Motrin) help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) relieves pain.
- Opioid pain medicines like codeine or morphine.
- Steroids, taken in pills or injected into the spine to relieve pain and inflammation.
- Physical therapy to:
- Strengthen the muscles and stretch the muscles near the pinched nerve and relieve pressure.
- Modify activities that irritate the nerve.
If other treatments don’t work after a few months, you may need surgery to take pressure off the pinched nerve. The type of surgery depends on where the pinched nerve is.
Common types of surgery for a pinched nerve include:
- Surgery to remove the part of the disc causing the pain, if the pinched nerve is from a herniated disc. (This is called discectomy).
- Surgery to remove the part of the disc or the bone spur causing the pain and “weld” or fuse the bones together, if the pinched nerve is from a herniated disc or pieces of bone that grow along the edges of bones (bone spurs). The bones then heal into a solid bone. The surgeon also uses:
- A bone graft (a piece of bone from another part of the body or a bone bank) to help new bone growth.
- Plates, screws, and/or rods to help hold the spine still while it heals. (This is called discectomy and fusion).
- Surgery to remove the disc and replace it with an artificial disc, if the pinched nerve is from a herniated disc.