At least 2-3 times a week I am asked the question, “Do I have a pinched nerve in my back or neck”?  It is very rare that the answer is Truly “YES”.

Pinched nerves are the culprit in less than 15% of the sharp, shooting, radiating painful occurrences in the neck or back!

Where does the pain come from then?  Most of the time the pain originates in the IVD (intervertebral discs) of the spinal column (research shows 85%).  These discs become compressed when muscles contract in the neck or back and squeeze the vertebrae together putting pressure on and distorting the discs.  The outer 1/3rd of the discs possess an abundance of pain fibers and the signal from these then radiates down the arm or leg.

15-30% of the time, the pain originates in the ligaments surrounding the spine’s posterior joints (called capsular ligaments).  The pain from these ligaments is also created by the muscles contracting and compressing the joints, putting pressure on the ligaments which are also very rich in nerve endings that sense pain.

If you are keeping track, 85% of the time the culprit is the discs, 15-30% of the time the culprit is the capsular ligaments, and lastly less than 15% of the time the pain originates from pressure on a nerve or the spinal cord.  Does the math add up to 115-130%?  NO, there can be an overlap of two or even three of the culprits which are all related to abnormal contracture of the muscles in the spinal column.

So, more often than not, the sharp pain in the neck or low back is not coming from a “pinched nerve” but from muscles contracting and putting pressure on heavily innervated tissue (discs and ligaments with lots of nerve endings).

We solve this problem by removing pressure from the spinal column with traction or decompression therapy, thereby allowing the relief of compression off of the discs and ligaments taking away the “pinching” sensation!

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