According to Wikipedia, “A pinched nerve occurs when pressure is placed on a nerve, usually from swelling due to an injury or pregnancy. Nerve damage or pinched nerves are usually accompanied by pain, numbness, weakness, or paralysis.”
The Mayo Clinic says, “A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues — such as bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons. This pressure disrupts the nerve’s function, causing pain, tingling, numbness or weakness.”
If you have a true pinched nerve, you want to get to your doctor to rule out any serious neurological or musculoskeletal issues, especially if you have persistent symptoms.
If your symptoms are due to tight muscles, neuromuscular trigger points, or myofascial adhesions, then massage may give you relief.
Folks sometimes come to me complaining of a “pinched nerve” but without exhibiting the symptoms above. I think that what is often happening in those cases is that it’s so hard to objectively report on the discomfort we feel in our bodies that we sometimes lack the vocabulary to describe our pain in a way that clinicians (like us massage therapists) recognize. So we do the best we can to describe our pain, falling back on relatively unspecific terms like “pinched nerve” to label symptoms like referred pain, myofascial tension, and hypertoned muscles. Fortunately, massage is great at addressing all of these. More often than not (I’d estimate about a 90% success rate) folks who come to me with this kind of “pinched nerve” leave my office pain-free.