What Does a Pinched Nerve Feel Like?

When you are experiencing a pinched nerve, the pain is very real, and the symptoms can not go unnoticed. Your body will tell you that something is wrong, whether its a burning pain, sharp neck pain, numbness, or other risk factors.

Pinched nerves are not something you can ignore. In many cases, the pain will go away on its own with some rest and healing. In others, the pain needs to be treated, and sometimes that requires a surgical treatment. Ignoring nerve impingement symptoms could result in larger health problems.

What a Pinched Nerve Feels Like

When you are wondering what does a pinched nerve feel like, you may be thinking of a spinal cord issue or nerve compression, damage to nerve roots or spinal nerves, blockage of a nerve pathway or even issues with the nerve root. Acute pain, burning sensations and tingling are the most common answers. A pinched nerve sensation or tingling nerve pain in the body can be excruciating. If you currently experience pinched nerves, contact a doctor, physical therapist or some with expertise with acute neck pain.

Pain management

It will interfere with your quality of life, and could even result in lost work. This medical problem occurs when there is a large amount of pressure on a nerve in the body.

When the tendons, muscles, or bones place too much stress on a nerve area, the end result is a pinched nerve. Pain is the first symptom, but you may also experience tingling or a numbing area in the area of the pinched or compressed nerve.

Pinched nerve occurs in spine, neck, shoulders

The most common areas of the body for a pinched nerve include the spine, the neck and shoulders, in the upper area of the chest when there are compressed lumbar and thoracic nerves, and in the arms and hands.

Hands and arms

In the arms and hands you may feel a pinched nerve or nerve impingement symptoms when you hit your funny bone. Carpal tunnel syndrome is also caused by a pinched nerve in the wrists and hands of the body.


The most common symptoms of a pinched nerve include a decreased sensation or numbness in the area where the nerve is leading to, and radiating nerve discomfort. However, you may also experience extreme pain in the area around the pinched nerve.

A condition known as paresthesia is also present with pinched nerve conditions, and this is that pins and needles sensation that you will experience when a nerve is pinched, like when your foot falls “asleep.” Another thing you may experience with a pinched nerve sensation is muscle weakness, and that is because the blood supply to the region can be limited.

How to Fix a Pinched Nerve

There are varying degrees of what a pinched nerve feels like, and so there are many different kinds of treatment for it. A pinched nerve can go away on its own, and it can be treated at home on your own with rest, ice, and in many cases non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as NSAIDs.

See a doctor

When you have a pinched nerve that does not go away on their own after a few days, you should see a doctor for care. There are many things a doctor can do to help you with nerve impingement or compressed nerves.

At home, a little bit of time and rest are the best answers for a pinched nerve when it starts. You can heal the problem and release the pressure on the nerve with time and rest at home. This is usually the first thing that most people do when they have a pinched nerve.

It is impossible to determine how serious a pinched nerve can be. When it starts to interfere with your quality of life or your ability to work, you will want to see a doctor. Taking care of yourself at home can reduce the symptoms of a pinched nerve in just a few days or weeks. 

Light stretching

Some light stretches and exercises can help with your pinched nerve symptoms as well, as this will reduce the inflammation of the surrounding muscles.  This will possibly relieve the stress of the muscles on the nerve that is being compressed or pinched.

Ice treatment options

Ice treatment or applying heat to the area can also help considerably. In many cases, a chiropractor can help here, as they have many tools that they can use to loosen the pressure around the area.

With some muscle manipulation as well, a chiropractor can help to greatly reduce the areas that are impacted by a pinched nerve.

Medical Tests

When you can see a doctor about a pinched nerve, the doctor will begin with a variety of tests to determine what the pain is caused by. This starts with medical imaging tests such as X-rays and possibly a CT scan or an MRI.

These images will show the doctor detailed images of the nerves, underlying tissues, and where the pain is originating from. With more detailed imaging such as CT or MRI scans, your doctor will be able to determine what the damage is, and how extensive it is. 


Another test the doctor may run is an EMG or electromyography. In this test, the electrical impulses of the muscles around the nerve are tested to determine how healthy the nerve underneath the muscle is.

Doctors recommendations

Following an assessment, the doctor will then determine the best course of action and treatment for you. Prescription medication can help with pinched nerves considerably. Those typically begin with NSAIDs and non-cortisol steroid medication. Y

our doctor may also recommend physical therapy. In extreme cases where the pain is indicated as severe and debilitating, your doctor may request surgery. This is typically the last kind of treatment suggested when there is a pinched nerve.

Common surgeries

Common surgeries for pinched nerves include decompression techniques where the doctors remove or relieve the areas that are pinching the nerve. You may have bony spurs on the spine that are removed, or even get an artificial disk replacement in the spine. There is also a bone in the spine that can be thinned for people that have severe back pain or pain caused by a pinched nerve in the spine.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome is also very common. In this surgery, there are small incisions made to cut the ligament around the nerves in order to take the pressure off of the nerve and relieve the pinched nerve sensations.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is found in approximately 1 to 3 people per 1,000 people annually and is radiating nerve discomfort caused by repetitive task injuries. It is a very common treatment, and effective in treating nerve pain.

Dangers On Leaving Pinched Nerves Untreated

A pinched nerve can be a sign of a more serious problem. When you are wondering what does a pinched nerve feel like, you are likely experiencing a multitude of issues in the body and surrounding area.

Injury to these muscles or tissues can worsen if the pinched nerve does not get decompressed or treated. You don’t necessarily need to see a doctor to have pinched nerves treated, but you should not ignore the problem at home either if the pain begins.

Minor impact

In many cases, pinched nerves can be minor. The symptoms will lessen and go away within a few days or a few weeks. However, if you have cervical compression or can not use your hands at work anymore due to carpal tunnel syndrome, you will need to take care of that.

If you do not, you could cause further damage to the tissues and surrounding area, and this damage could be permanent.

Permanent muscle damage

Permanent muscle damage or permanent nerve damage can be the result if you leave nerve damage unattended. You can also experience worsening health conditions if you leave pain unattended. There is a wide body of research as well that indicates the damage of chronic pain, its impact on the body, and on the life of a patient.

When you are experiencing nerve pain that will not go away, you want to have that looked at as soon as you can.

Get help quickly

Some of the damage caused by nerve pain can be caused by an infection in the surrounding tissues. This is another reason that you need to have nerve pain assessed as soon as possible. You may also experience some swelling or fluid buildup in the area where you are experiencing nerve pain.

All of these issues may be present in the body without you even knowing it. Nerve pain should be tended to as soon as possible.

If you’re experiencing pain, feel a burning sensation, maybe have excess weight, lack of muscle strength, neck numbness, unable to perform repetitive motions, possible herniated disk, and even if you might have a healthy weight loss plan, unexplained pain from nearby nerves and tight muscles might be a big issue that you will need to seek medical to figure out what is causing pain like that.

Other symptoms like issues with spinal discs, lumbar spine or median nerve pain, spinal stenosis or cervical spine pain, trying to relive pain on your own won’t help, see a doctor or professional as soon as possible.

Photo of author

Stevie Compango, CNSC, CPT

Stevie is Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for the past 10 years. He specializes in mobility and chronic pain management. His methods have helped thousands of clients improve the quality of their life through movement.

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