If you feel numbness or tingling in your fingers or arms, the problem may be a pinched nerve in the neck. A study found that about 85 out of 100,000 American adults are suffering from pinched nerves every year.
To understand what a pinched nerve is, one needs to understand what are nerves. Nerves are tiny cells that are like wires all over the body. Nerves can take signals from your brain and send them to other parts of the body. The nervous system controls the functions of human organs and sends information back to the brain for processing.
If a nerve is damaged or compressed for some reason, the nerve will not conduct its signal correctly. Injuries, bruises, or pregnancy are common causes of swelling or inflamed nerves. A pinched nerve in the neck often causes numbness, tingling, weakness, and pain in the arms, wrist, and other limbs. A severely pinched nerve in the neck may feel like pins and needles.
In this article, we will discuss the common causes and treatments of a pinched nerve in the neck.
What does a Pinched Nerve in the Neck Feel Like?
A pinched nerve in the neck often comes with a feeling of tingling sensation. The person suffering from this condition may feel some tingle in the neck, which then further escalates. Once escalated, you may feel numbness, pain, or weakness in the arms, hands, or fingers. In a serious case, you may even lose strength in your hands and shoulders.
At this point in time, you need to seek medical help as soon as possible. If not, it may lead to permanent damage to the nerves. With time, the pain may go up, getting sharper and unbearable.
7 Common Causes of a Pinched Nerve in Neck
There are many causes of pinched nerves. Some common causes are:
1. Herniated disks
The major cause of pinched nerve in the neck is compression exerted on the tissues surrounding the nerve. Herniated disks, also called bulged occur when the disc nucleus slips out of place into the spinal canal.
This will exert pressure on spinal nerves as the spinal canal has limited space. Herniated disks will cause numbness, pain, or weakness in the body in which the nerve travels.
2. Degenerative disc disease
With age, one or more discs between the vertebrae will wear down. This will make the disks in the spine grow and degenerate. Your vertebrae will become narrow and pinch nerves. Degenerative disc disease commonly occurs in the lower back or neck.
3. Bone spurs
Bone spurs are also known as bony growths, often form where bones meet each other like joints. Some bony may grow and put pressure on a nerve in your neck. This will cause pain, numbness, and a tingling sensation in your hand or arm.
4. Spinal Narrowing
Spinal stenosis refers to the spaces within your spine becoming narrow. Insufficient vertebral space can put pressure on your neck nerves and cause pain.
This condition usually occurs in the lower back and the neck. Some people may not have symptoms, others may experience tingling, numbness, and pain.
5. Rheumatoid arthritis
Another major reason behind the pinched nerve in the neck could be Rheumatoid arthritis. As the fever will make the nerves go weak. Thus, the person suffering from the fever may end up getting a pinched nerve in the neck as well.
6. Sports activities
People who love to play sports that require excessive physical activities may suffer from pinch nerve in the neck quite often. As these players participate in the game for a long time, it is easy to get injured and cause nerve compression in the neck.
The more fat one has accumulated in his neck, the more are the chances of a pinched nerve in the neck. However, the problem that occurred due to obesity may not be temporary. If a person doesn’t take medical consultation on time, this issue tends to get permanent, causing excessive damage to him.
10 Best Treatments for a Pinched Nerve in the Neck
1. Yoga and stretching
Yoga is the easiest way to treat a pinched nerve. It can effectively relieve nerve and muscle tension. In addition, yoga can also help relieve mental anxiety and improve sleep quality. This will allow the body to repair itself and reduce discomfort. However, if you feel pain when doing yoga, you should stop because it may cause more damage.
Splinting is another way to treat the affected area without going for any kind of treatment from the doctor. Wearing the splint will give separate space for the nerve to heal. Although you may feel irritated while sleeping, it will treat the nerve and reducing the intensity of the pinch.
3. Heating or cooling packs
The heating and cooling packs are also one of the great ways to reduce the intensity of pinched nerves in the neck. Applying these packs on the neck can help the enhancement of the circulation of blood and reduce the intensity of swelling.
The neck brace can help support the weight of the head and reduce the pressure on the neck. Rest can help reduce swelling and relieve pain caused by a pinched nerve.
5. Posture adjustment
Another way to get rid of the pinched nerve in the neck is by changing the posture. The wrong posture may apply pressure on the nerve in the neck and cause pain.
Especially for those who have to sit in front of the computer for a long time because of work, choosing a correct posture can effectively improve nervousness.
6. Opt for a Standing Workstation
If you have been sitting in front of the computer and working for a long time, then the possibility of nervousness will greatly increase. At this time, you can try to use standing work. Standing work can help maintain the mobility of all parts of the body, thereby reducing the compression of the neck nerves.
7. Physical therapy
Physiotherapy is also a common method of treating compressed nerves in the neck. This not only reduces pain but also enhances nerve function. But before you choose a physical therapy method, you’d better consult a doctor or physical therapist. They will choose some exercise methods that suit you.
8. Anti-inflammatory drugs
The compression of nerves in the neck is usually caused by nerve inflammation. In this case, you can choose some non-steroidal drugs with anti-inflammatory properties for treatment. Some common drugs include ibuprofen and aspirin. After taking two to three doses, the irritation and inflammation will subside.
9. Steroid injection
Sometimes steroid injections are also a good way to get rid of nerve compression in the neck. It can help reduce inflammation and eliminate swelling. As the swelling is reduced, the nerves gain the space they need to recover, and ultimately relieve the pain.
If all other methods fail, surgery is a last resort. You need to choose an experienced doctor for treatment. The doctor may consider many factors including the location of the nerve, the intensity of the problem, and the availability of other options.
3 Best Exercises to Relieve Pinched Nerve in Neck
There are a lot of exercises associated with a pinched nerve in the neck that can help get rid of the problem. Some of them include:
1. Chin tuck
One of the most effective exercises that can give instant relief from the pinched nerve in the neck is the chin tuck. If done in the right manner and over a period of time, it can reduce the pain of the neck and strengthens the muscles.
In addition, it can help improve posture. For this particular exercise, all you need to do is to put your finger on the chin and push it towards the neck. By doing this, you have to make his chin appear double.
Next, you need to hold it for at least three seconds. In these three seconds, stress should be alleviated and muscles should be relaxed.
Repeating this exercise 3-4 times will reduce the pain in the neck effectively. Note that consistency is the key. You need to repeat this exercise several times a day.
2. Head turn
The second most effective exercise for a pinched nerve in the neck is head turn. It is surely much easier and comfortable compared to the chin tuck.
With the help of this exercise, you can enhance the motion of the neck that is reduced by the pinched nerve. However, if you feel uncomfortable while performing this exercise, you need to do it as slow as possible. Even if the movements are small, doing them constantly will help in the long run.
For this exercise, you need to look ahead while straightening your neck and head. Once done, you need to turn the head in the right direction and keep it there for around 10 seconds.
After then, you need to turn to the left side and stay in that position for around 10 seconds. Next, the head should be tilted from one side to the other, as well as from up to down.
No matter how uncomfortable you feel, you should continue performing it with great regularity, until you feel the pinched nerve getting relief.
3. Shoulder roll
As the neck is connected to the shoulder, any discomfort in the neck will cause a problem to the shoulder as well.
So Shoulder roll exercise is also a good way for a pinched nerve in the neck. All you need to do is to lift the blades of the shoulder up and roll them back. Now, you need to roll them back a little. Repeating this around 4 to5 times will relax the muscles a bit. Now, once completed, doing the same action in the opposite direction again.
When do I see a doctor for a pinched nerve?
Pinched nerves are usually not severe, and most of the symptoms disappear after you get plenty of rest. However, in some cases, you might need to seek your doctor’s help.
If you’re experiencing persistent and constant pain, you should seek medical attention. Your doctor may carry out some tests to determine the cause of your pinched nerve before finding out the possible solution.
If the numbness, pain, or tingling doesn’t resolve after a few weeks, your doctor might recommend a strong anti-inflammatory drug, physical therapy, or in rare cases, surgery. If you are trying out any home treatments that seem to be worsening the pinched nerve, ensure you stop it at once.
Other signs that you may observe before you seek out your doctor include:
- The pinched nerve is affecting your bowel or bladder.
- The pinched nerve is causing a whole limb to be weak or give out.
- The pinched nerve preventing you from grasping things
- The pinched nerve is causing you to drop things.
Will my pinched nerve go away on its own? How long does it take before it goes?
With proper rest, your pinched nerve should go away within four to six weeks. During that period, you can improve the symptoms over counter medications like ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen.
If your home treatment doesn’t provide you relief after a few days, make sure you see your doctor. Your doctor may suggest several tests like X-rays and other evaluations find out the cause and the most effective treatment.
Is my pinched nerve a serious problem?
Pinched nerves are usually not serious. However, on rare occasions, your pinched nerve can cause serious problems. Your pinched nerve can cause severe pain and even lead to permanent nerve damage.
The pressure from muscles on nerves can cause irreversible damage to the nerves, especially if your pinched nerve is accompanied by inflammation.
If your pinched nerve shows no sign of improvement or if it worsens after a few days, talk to your doctor or physical therapist.
Other complications of a pinched nerve include:
- Loss of strength
- Permanent loss of sensation
- Permanent muscle wasting
- Permanent nerve damage, including paralysis
- Decreased athletic performance
- Difficulty sleeping
- Inability to participate normally in activities
- Inability to perform daily tasks
- Physical disability
- Severe discomfort or pain
- Urinary or fecal incontinence (inability to control urine or stool)
How can I prevent pinched nerves in the neck?
You may be able to help prevent a pinched nerve by:
- Losing weight.
- Add strength and flexibility exercises to your workout routine.
- Take breaks during repetitive activities.
- Maintain a good posture
- Take frequent movement breaks.
- Using an ergonomically correct workbench.
- Use proper protective equipment to minimize the risk of injury while you are playing any sports or exercising.
A pinched nerve in the neck is a normal condition. However, you need to find the right cure for it as soon as possible, before it elevated to something permanent. For that matter, over the counter medicines, exercises or steroids can be used. If you choose an exercise or physical therapy, you need to keep practicing until the pinched nerve in the neck completely disappears.