Pinched Nerve in the Neck

By Moses Jacob, DC
Categories: ,

neck and shoulder pain, old woman suffering from neck and shoulder injury, health problem concept

Pinched Nerve in the Neck.

What is it, what can cause it, what are the treatment options and what should I expect?

The cervical spine is comprised of 7 segmented vertebrae. The spinal cord, a extension of the brain, exist at the bottom of the skull. At each spinal vertebrae  two sets of nerves controlling sensory and motor functions exit through bony openings called  foramen. There are eight pairs of cervical spine nerves.  The neck nerves may become “pinched”, irritated or compressed causing a pinched nerve in the neck due to several factors:

  • Prolonged postures during work or even during sleep.
  • Degenerated,  herniated or ruptured  cervical disc.
  • Closure of the foramen ( nerve opening), due to arthritic boney overgrowths called spurs. Arthritic boney or disc degeneration is more commonly seen in the aging population.
  • Inflammatory response due to  trauma e.g. sports injury or auto-collision.

Pinched nerves in the neck is also called cervical radiculopathy or radiculitis.

Presenting symptoms of a neck pinched nerve include: a) neck pain, b)  neck muscle spasms, c) pain radiating  along the neck nerve pathway down the neck to the shoulder, elbow, arm wrist and hand d) numbness or tingling sensations. AKA paresthesia,  extending along the arm  to the fingers, and possibly e) weakness of the arm, hand or finger muscle.

Treatment options For Pinched Nerve in the Neck:

 Consults with a qualified chiropractor. After a review of the presenting history, a physical exam of the related neck muscles, and nerve levels allows for a determination of which spinal joint and  the compromised nerve level.  In serious cases exam findings may include loss of reflexes, and visual or measured atrophy AKA muscle wasting, due to loss of use.

Treatment for acute or chronic cases may include, conservative care including, instruction in proper posture, neck exercises, physiotherapy  including ice (acute care), heat modalities, massage and spinal manipulation (SMT). SMT is performed to unlock vertebral mechanical joint dysfunction to allow for improved motion. Improved spinal joint function removes the nerve irritation and assists in the healing process.  Acupuncture may also be a benefit of pain relief to some people.

 X-rays, MRI or nerve conduction testing aid in arriving at a correct diagnosis and localize which nerve levels may be involved.

Many events of cervical nerve compression improve in a short period of time. However, If conservative care fails,  pain medications, pain injections  or if supported by MRI findings of a herniated disc, surgery, as a final resort may become necessary.

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