A pinched nerve in the neck is a nerve that has become compressed or irritated. Note that although it is referred to as “pinched,” it is not necessarily pinched. However, the term is used to indicate a range of issues. Besides, the pinched nerve can happen in many places on a human body. When it happens on the neck, it is referred to as cervical radiculopathy or the pinched nerve in neck. In this post, we are going to look at the causes, symptoms, and treatment of radiculopathy.
What is Pinched Nerve in Neck?
To demonstrate what “pinched nerve in the neck is” we will take a closer look at the vertebrae. A human spine is made of 24 bones referred to as vertebrae. The spinal cord passes down via a canal in the center of the vertebrae. Nerve roots that serve different parts of the body branch off the main cord through the foramen, opening in the vertebrae.
When these roots are compressed or pinched, the problem is referred to as pinched nerve. The body may give warning signals such as sharp pain or numbness. If the issue is not addressed promptly, it can result in long-term injuries.
What Causes Pinched Nerve in Neck?
The main causes of pinched nerve in the neck are degenerative changes in the spine or injuries. These problems can cause bulging, herniated, or intervertebral discs.
- Degenerative changes
With age, the vertebrae lose space and start to age. Besides, they start losing water, dry and become stiffer. The effect of this can be settling or even collapse of the disc space.
As the disc loses space, the body can respond by creating additional bones referred to as spurs. These spurs make the spine stiffer and could also narrow the foramen resulting in pinching the nerve root. See the image below, demonstrating a healthy and degenerated vertebra.
- Herniated disc
A vertebra disc can herniate if its nucleus (jelly-like centre) starts pushing against the annulus (outer ring). If the herniated disc bulges outwards, it can exert pressure on the nerve root resulting in pain and weakness. Herniated disc can happen with pulling, lifting, twisting and bending movements.
Pinched Nerve in Neck Symptoms
What does pinched nerve in neck feel like? The main symptom of pinched nerve in neck starts with slight sensitivity in the affected region. Then, it advances and starts feeling like one is being pierced with a needle. The main symptoms of pinched nerve in neck include:
- Muscle weakness.
- Stinging pain.
How to Treat Pinched Nerve in Neck
If you notice any of the above signs of pinched nerve in the neck, it is important to take action right away. The good thing is that there are simple steps that you can take to address the problem. Here are some of them.
When you do regular head bends, they help to reduce tension on the back and build strength. So how do you do the side bends?
- Stand with your hands collapsed over the head.
- Keeping the head and neck straight, bend slowly from the core to the left and then right. Do this without letting the body arch backwards or forward.
- Repeat the above process about ten times.
- With time, you could add some handheld weights to increase the intensity of the workout.
If you take a lot of time sitting, especially with legs crossed, there is a high risk of suffering from pinched nerve in neck. Therefore, you can address the problem by taking frequent walking breaks from your job.
To get better results from walking, you should ensure to keep the head in a neutral position when walking around. Try to do this for about ten minutes every one-two hours.
Use shoulder shrugs and rolls
Moving shoulders can help to release the tension on your neck. This is also very helpful if the pinched nerve in neck causing headache and muscle tightness. Here is a demonstration of how to exercise shoulders correctly.
- Slowly shrug shoulders up and down for about half a minute.
- Rest for about 15 seconds and shrug the shoulders for another 30 seconds.
- Now roll shoulders forward and then up towards the ears. Relax the shoulders and roll then again for about half a minute.
- Roll the shoulders two times, taking breaks of 10-15 seconds and shift to shrugging the shoulders.
Yoga is the process of slowly moving the body while engaging every muscle group. One of the top yoga options to help with pinched nerve in the neck is the child pose.
- On a mat, start by sitting on your heels with the tops of the feet lying flat on the floor.
- Carefully bring the body forward so that it meets the thighs and head face down.
- Extend your arms straight out and ahead so that they lay flat on the floor.
- Hold in that position for about 30 seconds.
Sometimes, a simple twist might be all that you need to address a pinched nerve in the neck. To do a twist, here are the steps to follow:
- Sit on a chair that is comfortable, preferably one that allows your back to rest straight.
- Position your left hand on the right knee and twist to the right. Then hold that position for about five seconds before returning to the normal sitting position.
- Now, repeat the twist on the left side and again hold for about five seconds. Make sure to repeat the process for several minutes.
Neck tilts are used to help stretch muscles around the neck and ease pressure on the back. To do this exercise:
- Sit or stand in a neutral position. Then, draw your chin down close to the neck. Note that you should only lower it to the point at which you are comfortable.
- Gently tilt your head backwards (as if you are looking at the ceiling). Make sure to tilt the head slowly for maximum effect.
- Repeat the two actions about five to 15 times.
Consider a standing workstation
Today, working stations are becoming very common. Standing and mobility during the day are very important in helping to prevent and treat pinched nerve in neck. Consider talking to your HR manager to get a standing working station. But if you cannot get a standing station, make sure to take some walk every one to two hours.
Head turns are some of the most recommended solutions for minor to a severe pinched nerve neck problem. Although they might feel a little difficult at first, you will get used with time. Here is how to do the turns.
- Stand or sit in a relaxed position. Then, slowly turn your head to the right and hold there for about five seconds.
- Return the head to the normal position.
- Then, turn to the left position and hold there for about five seconds before moving back to the normal position.
- Repeat the movement about ten times.
Use massage to ease pain and pressure
Massage can help to reduce muscle stress and pain in the neck. Lying on a comfortable mat or bed, apply some gentle pressure on the affected section of the neck. Make sure to start gently, especially if the muscles feel too sore. For better results, consider combining massage with gentle stretches, and exercises.
Apply some heat
Applying some heat to the affected area of the neck can help to reduce the pressure on the muscles and nerves around. Using heating pads, place them on the pinched area for five to ten minutes at a time. This method will be very effective if you combine it with other efforts such as head turns and head tilts.
The Bottom Line
When you see the pinched nerve in the neck symptoms, it is advisable to seek a quick solution to avoid escalation of the problem. The above ten treatment options are all that you need to calm and clear the problem of pinched nerve in neck. Note that if the problem persists, you should seek medical assistance from an expert orthopedic.