A pinched nerve refers to a certain kind of damage to a nerve or group of nerves. It’s caused when a disc, bone, or muscle places increased pressure on the nerve.
It can lead to feelings of:
- pins and needles
Some pinched nerves will require professional care to treat. If you’re looking for a way to alleviate mild pain at home, here are nine options you can try. Some of them can be done at the same time. What’s important is to find what works best for you.
1. Adjust your posture
You may need to change how you’re sitting or standing to relieve pain from a pinched nerve. Find any position that helps you feel better, and spend as much time in that position as you can.
2. Use a standing workstation
Standing workstations are gaining popularity, and for good reason. Mobility and standing throughout your day are crucial to preventing and treating a pinched nerve.
If you have a pinched nerve or want to avoid one, talk with your human resources department about modifying your desk so that you can stand while working. There's also a range to choose from online. If you can’t get a standing workstation, be sure to get up and take a walk each hour.
Roller balls for tight muscles and an hourly stretching program are a good idea if you use a keyboard frequently. (Wrist braces or supports aren’t recommended as an early treatment strategy.)
No matter where you have a pinched nerve, the best thing is usually to rest as long as possible. Avoid the activity that is causing you pain, such as tennis, golf, or texting.
Rest until the symptoms have completely resolved. When you do start moving that part of your body again, pay attention to how it feels. Stop the activity if your pain returns.
If you have carpal tunnel, which is a pinched nerve in the wrist, a splint can help you rest and protect your wrist. This can be especially helpful overnight so that you don’t curl your wrist in a bad position while you’re sleeping.
Gentle stretches can help relieve the pressure on your nerve and improve your symptoms. Don’t go too deeply into a stretch. If you begin to feel pain or discomfort, ease up on the stretch. Remember that small movements can have a big impact.
6. Apply heat
You can use heat to relax the muscles that might be tight around a pinched nerve. Heat also increases blood flow, which can help the healing process. You can find heating pads in various sizes at a drugstore.
Hold heat directly onto the pinched nerve for 10–15 minutes at a time.
7. Use ice
Ice reduces swelling and inflammation. Wrap a towel around an ice pack and hold it directly onto the pinched nerve for 10–15 minutes.
8. Elevate your legs
For a pinched nerve in your lower back, try elevating your legs with a 90-degree bend in both your hips and knees.
9. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever
If you want to try a pain reliever, you can take over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or aspirin (Bufferin). Follow the instructions on the bottle, and be sure to check with your doctor before taking any new medications.
See a doctor | See a doctor
If your pain is severe, constant, or keeps returning, you should see a doctor. The doctor may run some tests or ask a lot of questions about your lifestyle to determine what’s causing your pinched nerve.
If the pain, tingling, and numbness doesn’t resolve, it’s important that you see your physician. They may prescribe a stronger anti-inflammatory or suggest additional testing, such as an X-ray, to determine exactly where the nerve is pinched. Your doctor may also prescribe physical therapy, which can help to reduce symptoms.
It’s very important that you stop any at-home treatments if they seem to hurt you or make your condition worse. If you have numbness or tingling that isn’t resolving or is getting worse, contact your physician or an orthopedic physical therapist.
See a doctor immediately if you have a pinched nerve that’s:
- affecting your bowel or bladder
- causing a whole limb to be weak or give out
- preventing you from grasping things
- causing you to drop things
If at-home treatments aren’t helping, or if you continually get pinched nerves, your doctor may prescribe prescription painkillers, physical therapy, or even surgery.
The occasional pinched nerve is usually treatable at-home. Sometimes damage is irreversible and requires immediate professional care. Pinched nerves can be avoided when you use your body properly and don’t overwork your muscles.