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 nerves are. 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.
This article 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, 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.
10 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.
As we age, our bones and muscles tend to deteriorate. This gradual wear and tear on the spine and its discs may cause the spinal discs to lose water and flatten. As a result of the change in these bones’ shape, the pressure can compress nerves and cause pinched nerves.
Injury to the neck or spine is another primary cause of pinched nerves in your neck. The injury can result from over-exercise, sports, or an accident. Sleeping in an awkward position, Heavy lifting, pulling, or repetitive movements can also cause pinched nerves in your neck.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the joints that may pressure nearby nerves.
This is an autoimmune disease that affects the lining of your joints. It could start in one area and spread to other parts of the body. The deteriorating of the joints can put pressure on the nerves, causing pinched nerves in the neck.
Pregnant women are also prone to experiencing pinched nerves in the neck. The extra weight that accompanies pregnancy can also cause compressed nerves.
The more fat one has accumulated in his neck, the more the chances of a pinched nerve in the neck. As your body size increases, the excess weight can affect your spine’s natural shape. The weight could put pressure on your nerves, causing pinched nerves.
In addition, there are some other causes of pinched nerves include diabetes, thyroid disease, prolonged bed rest, and repetitive tasks, such as typing on a keyboard.
12 Best Treatments for a Pinched Nerve in the Neck
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.
Light stretches can help soothe the pain and relieve the pressure on your nerve. Make sure you don’t overwork your muscles. When you start stretching, if you feel any pain or discomfort, keep the stretches moderate. Small stretches have a big effect on pinched nerves.
Splinting is another way to treat the affected area without going for any 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 reduce the pinch’s intensity.
4. Heating or cooling packs
The heating and cooling packs are also 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.
6. 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.
7. Opt for a Standing Workstation
Living a sedentary lifestyle that includes sitting down for several hours in a day can cause pinched nerves. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that standing workstations are gaining popularity.
Standing and having mobility during the day is essential to preventing and treating a pinched nerve. There are several standing work desks online, or you can request a desk from your human resources department.
If you don’t have access to a standing workstation, make sure you stand up and take a walk every hour to prevent pinched nerves.
Regardless of where you have a pinched nerve, getting a lot of rest is one of the most effective ways to relieve the pain.
You need to avoid the activity that is causing the pinched nerves – whether it is golfing, tennis, or swimming. Rest until the symptoms of the pinched nerves are completely resolved.
After a few days, your pinched neck should feel relieved. If you don’t feel relieved or the pain returns, stop the activity and take plenty of rest.
9. 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.
10. 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.
Top tip: Before you take any new medications, make sure you check in with your doctor.
11. 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. It would help if you chose 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 many 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 neck’s pain and strengthen the muscles.
In addition, it can help improve posture. For this particular exercise, all you need to do is 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. It would help if you repeated 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 and 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.
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 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.
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 that several tests like X-rays and other evaluations determine 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
- Decreased athletic performance
- Permanent nerve damage, including paralysis
- 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.
Pinched nerves are not always serious. In fact, with proper rest and treatment, most people recover from a pinched nerve. However, they can sometimes lead to other medical conditions like peripheral neuropathy. Your pinched nerve may cause other injuries that may vary from minor, temporary damage to more permanent nerve damage. It would help if you diagnosed your pinched nerves early to prevent complications or further damage.