A pinched nerve in your lower back occurs due to excess pressure on the nerves near the last five vertebrae in your back. Treatment can include medications, physical therapy, and at-home care.

A pinched nerve in your lower back may be painful and could impact your overall quality of life.

Keep reading to learn more about possible symptoms and causes of a pinched nerve in your lower back, as well as treatment methods for pain relief.

Anatomy infographic of a pinched nerve in the lower backShare on Pinterest
Illustration by Maya Chastain

The most common symptoms of a pinched nerve in your lower back are sharp pain, stabbing-type pain, numbness, or tingling. These may come and go.

Additionally, you may also experience:


Sciatica describes symptoms that occur when the sciatic nerve that extends between your lower back and feet is either injured or compressed. This may cause sharp pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in your:

  • lower back
  • hips
  • buttocks
  • legs
  • feet and ankles

These symptoms may also be a sign of lumbar radiculopathy. This happens when one or more nerve roots in your lower vertebrae are compressed or damaged.

If you only have lower back pain, then you likely don’t have sciatica. Symptoms of sciatica typically worsen or radiate when you make certain movements, such as sneezing, bending, or quickly twisting.

A pinched nerve in your lower back may appear out of nowhere or result from a traumatic injury, such as a fall.

You’re more likely to experience symptoms if you’re between ages 30 and 50 years. This is when the discs between your vertebrae are most susceptible to injury.

Another common cause of a pinched nerve in the lower back is a herniated disc. This may occur due to aging, wear and tear, or a defect in your vertebrae. Males ages 20 to 50 years are at a higher risk of developing a herniated disc.

Other possible causes of a pinched nerve in the lower back include:

Some risk factors may contribute to pinched nerves in the lower back, including:

  • poor posture, especially from computer work
  • not getting enough regular exercise
  • improper lifting
  • repetitive movements
  • smoking
  • tall height
  • overweight or obesity

A healthcare professional will first perform a physical and medical history examination. They’ll ask you about your symptoms, so it’s important to provide as many details as you can. These may include:

  • the type of pain you’re experiencing
  • how long you’ve been experiencing pain and discomfort
  • how it’s affecting your quality of life
  • whether you’ve recently experienced any injuries

Next, the doctor will look for physical signs of trauma or other issues in your lower back by checking for possible:

If you’re experiencing symptoms of sciatica, the doctor may perform a straight leg test. However, they may not be able to diagnose a pinched nerve, nor its cause, from a physical examination alone.

The following imaging tests may help them get more information:

These imaging tests are typically ordered if symptoms don’t improve after 2 months.

Your treatment plan will depend on the underlying cause of the pinched nerve in your lower back and the severity of your symptoms. A treatment plan may include a combination of several baseline treatments, such as:

A doctor will typically recommend that you make lifestyle modifications to help with your symptoms. Some of these changes may include:

  • Activity modification: Certain seated positions or activities that cause you to twist or lift could make your pinched nerve worse. It may be best to avoid these activities for some time to alleviate symptoms.
  • Ice and heat: Applying ice or heat for 20 minutes a few times a day may help reduce pain and muscle spasms. If you’ve recently experienced a lower back injury, however, avoid applying heat for 48 hours.
  • Frequent movement: A 2020 study found that lumbar stabilization and thoracic mobilization exercises were effective at providing pain relief and avoiding the onset of nerve pain.
  • Sleeping position modifications: Your sleeping position may aggravate symptoms of nerve pain. Discuss the best sleeping position for the pain with a doctor and determine how to practice proper sleeping habits.

It can take several weeks for baseline treatments to take effect. If these don’t help relieve symptoms caused by a pinched nerve in your lower back, a doctor may consider more invasive treatment options. These may include spinal injections or surgery.

Some at-home stretches and exercises may help relieve your symptoms of a pinched nerve. That said, speak with a healthcare professional before you try them to avoid worsening symptoms.

Use a yoga mat, towel, or carpet to lie on when engaging in these stretches. Perform two to three repetitions of these stretches each time, and make sure to take deep breaths while stretching.

1. Knees to chest

  1. Lie on the floor.
  2. Bend both knees and point them up toward the ceiling. Your feet should be on the floor.
  3. Bring your knees up to your chest and hold them there for 10 to 20 seconds.
  4. Release your legs and return your feet to the floor in the knees bent position.

2. Mobilizing stretch

  1. Keep the same inactive position as in the knee to chest stretch.
  2. Instead of bringing your knee to your chest, extend your leg so your foot points to the ceiling — don’t point your toe.
  3. Hold it in the air for 10 to 15 seconds and then release the hold.
  4. Repeat this with the other leg.

3. Gluteal stretch

This exercise also begins in the same position with head support and knees pointed to the ceiling.

  1. Bring one of your legs up and rest your foot on your other bent leg. The knee of your raised leg will be perpendicular to your body.
  2. Grab the thigh that’s holding up your foot and pull it toward your chest and head.
  3. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds and release.
  4. Repeat this on the other side of your body.

Speak with a healthcare professional if your lower back pain:

  • interferes with your daily activities
  • doesn’t improve after 3 weeks of at-home treatment
  • worsens over time

If you’re currently undergoing treatment for a pinched nerve in your lower back, speak with your doctor if symptoms worsen or don’t improve within 4 to 6 weeks.

How long does a pinched nerve last in the lower back?

The duration of a pinched nerve in your lower back will depend on its underlying cause. Symptoms typically improve without treatment within 6 weeks. Speak with a healthcare professional if your symptoms don’t improve after this time.

Is walking good for a pinched nerve in the lower back?

Whether walking is good or bad for a pinched nerve in your lower back depends on its underlying cause. Walking could make symptoms worse for some people. For others, walking may help alleviate pain and stiffness. Speak with a doctor if walking causes you pain. They can recommend stretches and exercises to help you.

What does a pinched nerve in the lower back feel like?

Symptoms of a pinched nerve in your lower back may include pain, numbness, and tingling. This pain may sometimes radiate down your leg, which could feel like electrical shocks or pins and needles.

A pinched nerve in your lower back may be painful and interfere with your daily activities. However, treatment may help provide pain relief, improve your mobility, and improve your quality of life.

Speak with a healthcare professional if you have a pinched nerve in your lower back. They can help develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.