The nervous system is very complex and begins at the brain, moving down the spine and branching out to the other extremities of the body. A pinched nerve in your neck can mimic other pinched nerves as you may feel various types of pain sensations that radiate down your neck, into your spine and throughout the rest of your body. In many cases, the soft tissue surrounding the spine calcifies decreasing the section where nerve fibers pass through. This causes compression which can lead to a pinched nerve in your neck.
- Pain that radiates from neck to outer extremities
- Numbness or weakness
- Tingling or burning sensation
- Sharp pain when moving neck
Try not to turn or move your head in any direction that may agitate the pinched nerve in your neck. Immobilize your head with a cervical collar as this will prevent muscle spasms and inflammation of the nerve root. Take a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medication to relieve any pain. In most cases, a pinched nerve in the neck will not last very long. However, if you notice that pain is increasing or occurring over a long period of time, speak with a physician. A doctor or chiropractor may use low-force manipulation techniques to see if any relief occurs. If not, surgical intervention may be necessary, and you should speak with an Otolaryngologist
What causes neck pain?
Keep in mind that there are many causes to neck pain. These include whiplash, arthritis, muscle strain, degenerative disc disease and a pinched nerve. Another interesting fact that many people don’t realize is that neck pain or a pinched nerve in your neck could be directly related to back or spinal cord issues. This is why it is important to speak with your doctor in order to properly identify what is causing your neck pain. Some tools that your doctor may use are X-Rays, CT Scans, an MRI and Electrodiagnostic studies.
How can my neck pain be treated?
Treatment for a pinched nerve in your neck or neck pain in general will vary from person to person. Some people find relief by utilizing a chiropractor or physical therapy. Other people use electrotherapy or acupuncture. Because posture can be related to neck and shoulder pain, some people purchase a new bed or mattress. Make sure your pillow is soft and keeps your neck straight, but also make sure that it is not too high. Depending how severe your pain is, you can also try a topical ointment such as IcyHot or Bengay.
Keep in mind that car accidents, strenuous muscle activity or poor posture are considered to be risk factors for neck and shoulder pain. Your doctor may recommend a neck brace and/or neck and shoulder strengthening exercises in order to increase/decrease mobility and strengthen the muscles in these areas.
Doctors recommend that you should slow your activity for the first couple days after you notice that you have neck pain. After a couple days, you can resume your activities however you should not lift heavy items or twist your neck in awkward positions. During your initial recovery period, you should avoid activities such as running, lifting weights and certain sports.
How do I prevent neck pain?
One of the best ways to prevent neck and shoulder pain is by utilizing good habits. For example, it is not good to keep your head or neck in compressed in the same position for extended periods of time. For example, if you spend a lot of time on the computer, sit up straight and keep your feet planted on the floor. Sleeping habits are also important too. Make sure you keep your neck straight on your pillow. Do not bend your neck in awkward positions. If you are smoking, you should quit as smoking has a negative impact on spine structure. Maintaining a healthy weight is important too as excess weight places additional strain on muscles and joints.
What approach should I take when treating my neck pain?
Finally, you should have a conservative approach to treating neck and shoulder pain. This includes starting with basic, non-surgical methods and slowly increasing your approach as pain worsens and your mobility becomes more limited. As stated previously, surgery should only be a last resort, and it is best to consult with your doctor to find which surgical process would be right for your. Only your doctor can diagnose a condition and recommend different avenues of treatment.