When to Call a Doctor for a Pinched Nerve
A pinched nerve—the layman's term for what doctors call a "compressed nerve"—can be very painful. There are self-care options, such as heat/ice, massage, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. If your pain has just started or if it isn't too severe, you can try these. And rest assured: Most cases of pinched nerves go away on their own.
However, there comes a point when you should seek medical attention for your back pain or neck pain caused by a pinched nerve. Watch out for these severe symptoms.
Call a doctor if:
- you have persistent pain. If your pain from what you think is a pinched nerve lasts more than a couple of days, you should seek medical attention.
- your pain is getting worse, despite trying the self-care treatment options mentioned above.
- you have a sudden onset of "acute focal weakness." That's doctor-speak for unexpected weakness or pain in a specific area. For example, if your whole right leg becomes unable to carry your weight, that's acute focal weakness.
(We should point out, though, that if you have a sudden pain in your left arm, it may be a sign of a heart attack—another reason to get into the doctor.)
- you experience profound numbness or loss of sensation. (This could also be a sign of a stroke, so definitely go to the doctor.)
- you lose bowel or bladder control.
Pay attention to your body and pain. If any of your symptoms concern you, call your doctor.