Published on February 9, 2014
What is a Pinched Nerve?
A pinched nerve can occur when there is too much pressure applied from the surrounding tissues. This pressure irritates the nerve’s function, which causes symptoms such as tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain in the area. A pinch nerve in the neck can result from repetitive strain, a disc bulge, trauma, moving the wrong way, or even sleeping in an awkward position. For people who sit at a desk for long periods of time, it may also be a consequence of holding the body in one position for an extended period of time. All of these incidents can result in an inflammatory process which causes irritation of the nerve root and gives rise to pain.
What Causes a Pinched Nerve?
Nerve inflammation is often caused by an injury, where the tissues become irritated and put pressure on the nerves. This pressure is the main cause of pain as it stops the nerve from firing properly. Pain can be mild, moderate, or severe. If the inflammation is severe enough, it can cause abnormal sensations, loss of strength, or loss of reflexes.
A pinched nerve in the neck can cause pain to travel into the shoulder, back of the neck to the head, and may cause headaches as the nerves from the neck innervate the mid-back, shoulder, and arm. It may also refer pain into the elbow, wrist, and fingers. If the nerve is moderately to severely compromised, you may also experience weakness in the area, which is a cardinal sign of nerve damage. The faster you get assessed and treated, the quicker the recovery process.
Another cause of a pinched nerve is a cervical disc problem, which can put pressure on the nerve. Under high compressive loads, such as whiplash, hit to the head, or prolonged flexion of the head, a cervical disc can bulge or even herniate. Therefore, it is important to maintain proper posture while sitting at your desk and to change positions frequently throughout the day.
Pinched Nerve Symptoms:
Pinched nerve symptoms include:
- Pain in the neck in the region of the pinch – very stiff and tight along the facets bones
- Radiation to the head and neck
- Pain down your mid-back behind and into your shoulder blade
- Numbness / tingling pain and radiation down your arm
- Decreased sensation any where down your shoulder or arm
- Weakness of your shoulder, elbow and or hands
- Weakness of your fingers
How to Treat a Pinched Nerve
A pinched nerve is often treated by first controlling the pain associated from the impingement. In acute stages of pain, ice and anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed to help control the inflammation. A chiropractor or physiotherapist may use ice, heat, acupuncture, or electrical stimulation to help control the pain. Soft tissue therapy, mobilization, and massage will also be utilized to restore the range of motion. Cervical traction is also utilized in conjunction with manual therapy to help take pressure off the nerve. Some patients may benefit from a home traction unit where they can apply traction on their own, providing relief by helping to take pressure off of the pinched nerve.
Pinched Nerve Treatments:
- Manual Therapy
- Sports Therapy
- Massage Therapy
- Stretching and strengthening of injured area
- Anti-inflammatories if needed
In severe cases, surgery may be required if you do not respond to conservative treatment.