What is a pinched nerve in the neck?Nerves are microscopically sized cells found in many places in your body. These nerves can receive signals from your brain and send them to the rest of your body. The human cervical spine consists of seven small bones that start at the skull base and extend to the shoulders.
When the nerves in the cervical spine are compressed or irritated, it can cause pain and numbness in the arm that runs down the arm to the hand. Not just the neck, a pinched nerve can appear in various body parts. When it affects the neck, doctors call it cervical radiculopathy. This article explains what cause a pinched nerve, how to diagnose it, and when to see a doctor.
What does a pinched nerve in the neck feel like?
The most common symptom of a pinched nerve in the neck is neck pain, which usually radiates from the neck to the arm or hand. Sometimes you may experience numbness or needle-like tingling in your shoulders, arms, or hands.
This feeling may last from a few minutes to a few hours or a long time. In some case, you may also lose strength in your hands or even your shoulders. Muscle weakness can make you fatigue more efficiently and unable to maintain your daily activities as you used to.
Usually, a pinched nerve in the neck heal on their own but can also become chronic. If symptoms of a pinched nerve in the neck persist for more than four weeks, you need to contact your doctor as soon as possible. If left untreated, chronic pain and symptoms may worsen.
What Causes Pinched Nerves in Neck?
Common causes of Pinched Nerve in the Neck include narrowing spinal space, disc degeneration, bone spurs, and disc herniation.
Disc Degeneration: According to the latest research, age-related disc degeneration is the leading cause of pinched nerve in the neck. As the disc degenerates, the foramen between the vertebrae gradually narrows. This can cause nerve compression.
Narrowing spinal space: There is not enough space in the vertebrae due to narrowing the space inside the vertebrae. This can compress the nerves in the neck and cause pain.
Bone spurs: Bone growths can put pressure on nerves in the neck, which can then cause pain and tingling.
In addition, some exercise can exacerbate the symptoms of pinched nerve in neck. These sports include diving, golf, and weightlifting.
Diagnosis of Pinched Nerve in Neck
Usually, your doctor will examine your neck, arms, hands, and shoulders. They will ask the patient to move their neck and arms to check where they feel the pain. There are some common tests include:
X-ray: An X-ray is an imaging test that can help doctors diagnose the alignment of the bones in your neck and spine. In addition, it can identify the foramen between the vertebrae and the narrowing of the disc space.
CT scan: CT scans can show bones in more detail than X-rays. It can help doctors spot bone spurs in the cervical spine.
MRI scan: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) shows soft tissue, vertebrae, and nerves more detail than other scan types.
EMG scan: The electrospinal cord test measures the speed at which electrical impulses travel along the nerve. This can help doctors determine if the nerve is functioning correctly and exactly where it is being compressed.
Nonsurgical Treatment of pinched nerve in the neck
Pain from pinched nerves in the neck usually goes away within four weeks. However, sometimes symptoms will worsen, and surgery may be required. Fortunately, some home remedies can improve your symptoms. non-surgical treatment
Physical therapy: Some physical therapy can help relieve pinched nerves in the neck and strengthen the flexibility of the neck muscles. This will help improve range of motion and reduce pain.
Immobilization: A soft neck brace can help reduce the amount of neck movement to reduce nerve root irritation. Also, this allows the neck muscles to relax. However, I do not recommend wearing a neck brace for more than two weeks as it can weaken the neck muscles.
Medication: Some NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, anesthetics, corticosteroids, and steroid injections, can help relieve pain and inflammation and improve symptoms.
Additionally, you can treat a pinched nerve in the neck at home by:
- Using hot and cold therapy
- Make sleeping adjustments
- Take vitamins
Surgical Treatment of pinched nerve in the neck
If non-surgical treatment options don’t work, your doctor may recommend surgery. Of course, your doctor will consider many factors, such as your age, symptoms, and medical history, to determine the best surgical option.
Typically, an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) goal are to remove the disc or bone spur that causes compression on the nerve. Artificial disc replacement (ADR) and posterior cervical foraminotomy can be used for compressed nerves in the neck.
When to See a doctor
Symptoms may go away on their own in a few days, weeks, or months. However, if symptoms do not resolve after weeks or any of the following symptoms occur, medical attention is recommended.
- Persistent fever or high fever
- Stiff neck and inability to move
- Nausea or vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss severe
- Headache and vision problems
- Severe mental state problems incontinence
These symptoms may indicate a more severe problem with the spine that may require further investigation and treatment. Your doctor can recommend oral corticosteroids, steroid injections, or surgery, depending on your symptoms.
A pinched nerve in the neck is a common problem, and it usually goes away within a few days or weeks. Most people get better within four weeks and don’t need surgery.
However, symptoms may not improve in severe cases, and people may need more effective treatment or even surgery. Before surgery, people can try many non-surgical treatments, such as rest, massage, medication, and light neck exercises.
These exercises can provide relief, helping to decompress nerves and loosen tight muscles. However, if you experience pain or discomfort while doing these stretches, stop immediately and consult your doctor.