How is a pinched nerve diagnosed?

You’ll want to visit a healthcare provider about your pinched nerve if it’s not responding to conservative treatment at home. To find the source of the pinched nerve, providers physically examine your neck, arms, shoulders, and wrist and hands. They’ll look for muscle weakness, test change in reflexes and ask about the different sensations you’re feeling.

Imaging tests

If necessary, you may be asked to undergo one or more of these procedures to track the source of the problem:

  • X-ray: An X-ray can show narrowing and changing alignment of the spinal cord, and fractures.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: A CT shows 3D images and more detail of the spine than an X-ray.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): An MRI can show if damage to soft tissues are causing the nerve compression, or if there is damage to the spinal cord.
  • Electromyography (EMG): Electrical impulses of muscles measured by an EMG, along with nerve conduction studies, can help determine if a nerve is working normally. This helps your provider see if symptoms are caused by pressure on spinal nerve roots, or if nerve damage is caused by another condition like diabetes.

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