Getting a pinched nerve in your neck is one of the most annoying yet frequent causes of chronic pain. It can happen quite easily, especially if you’re someone who works an office job and has to deal with bad posture or regular time spent staring at a screen.
But to many people, the onset of pain in their neck is a total and random mystery. Where did it come from? Why is this happening to me? How do I make it stop? Will it happen again? Especially if you’re a normally healthy person who has no other chronic pain conditions, getting a pinched nerve in the neck can feel very confusing and lead to a lot of questions.
In this article, we’ll clear up exactly what a pinched nerve in the neck is and how one can treat it.
Overview: What is a pinched nerve in neck?
A pinched nerve in the neck, otherwise known as cervical radiculopathy, is a common condition. Essentially, a nerve in your neck gets pressed or damaged in a strange way at the nerve root, which then becomes inflamed. The nerve root is the area where your nerve branches away from your main spinal cord.
Technically, you could get a pinched nerve in any part of your spine; it’s a common cause of lower back pain. But the neck is probably the most-cited area that people mention for getting pinched nerves. A pinched nerve is most common in people who are middle-aged, or roughly around their 50’s.
What is a pinched nerve in your neck caused by?
There are a range of possible causes for a pinched nerve in the neck. For example, a pinched nerve may occur as a result of a herniated disc, or a condition wherein one of the small, soft discs between your vertebrae slips slightly out of position. When it moves around, it can irritate the nearby nerves, compressing or putting pressure on them in strange ways, causing a pinched nerve. This is one of the most common causes in middle-aged adults. Heavy lifting, bending or twisting might cause a herniated disc.
In addition, as we age, our spines simply start to wear out a bit. The discs in between vertebrae start to bulge and flatten, losing some of their efficacy, and your vertebrae develop bone spurs as a result to compensate for the loss of area between them. As your spine’s height and makeup starts to gradually change, herniated discs and nerve pinches become more common, though not necessarily inevitable.
Exercises for a trapped nerve in your neck
If you’re looking for an exercise to treat a pinched nerve in your neck, the best option is probably to see a physical therapist, who will be able to evaluate you and make the best recommendation for your specific medical case. However, stretching out your trapezius muscles, doing a chin tuck stretch, head turns, neck bends and shoulder rolls are all possible exercises to help make a pinched nerve feel better. The muscles in your neck and traps can sometimes put too much pressure on the nerves the lie within, and stretching them out may relieve some of the pain associated with a pinched nerve.
Possible treatments and home remedies
There are many common over the counter treatments available. NSAIDS and other anti-inflammatory drugs, for example, can relieve the pain and inflammation associated with a pinched nerve and help you feel like you’re back to normal.
Sleep is also incredibly important when your body is dealing with a pinched nerve in your neck. Though it may be hard to find a comfortable sleeping position if you’re in pain, sleep is the body’s main method of repairing itself. If you’re not sleeping for long enough, or the quality of your sleep is not good, then recovery will simply be that much harder.
Other classic treatments for soreness and inflammation, such as icy/hot packs, physical therapy, or massage are all possible treatments for a pinched nerve.
Certain collagen or protein treatments, like Nutrixen Multicollagen, may also be able to help. Anti-inflammatory supplements, like omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, might be able to positively affect your joint and skeletal health.
Symptoms of a pinched nerve
Having a pinched nerve in your neck could lead to a variety of symptoms. Not all pinched nerves lead to a lot of pain. In fact, many cases don’t require medical attention at all and some are quite mild. A pinched nerve may feel like a pins-and-needles sensation, radiating outward from your neck. It might also feel like pain or an inexplicable weakness in your shoulder, arm or hand. Burning, numbness, or a strange sensation in one isolated area near your neck or upper arm/shoulder is also a possible sign.
When to see a doctor
In the majority of cases involving a pinched nerve in the neck, seeing a doctor isn’t necessary. Some over the counter pain medications, exercises, collagen supplements or other home remedies is probably enough to settle the issue within a short period of time.
However, if you notice that the pain isn’t responding to treatment or is getting worse, or if it doesn’t let up even after an initial period of a couple days, it may be time to see a doctor. In addition, any serious symptoms are a good sign that you may need medical attention: look out for a loss of control over your limbs, collapsing, or an inability to hold or grip objects tightly as a result of a pinched nerve. In any of those cases, seeing a doctor is highly recommended.
What will my doctor recommend?
In severe cases, surgery is even an option for treating a pinched nerve in neck, though it’s usually not common. Usually, nonsurgical treatment like physical therapy or a steroid injection, as well as a set of exercises one can do at home, will comprise the initial part of any doctor’s recommendations when you go to them with a pinched nerve.