People at times, talk about and suffer from the pain in the neck, which tingles or gives a burning sensation. It is nothing, but a pinched nerve in the neck that happens due to the increased pressure or damage to the peripheral nerve that lies outside the spinal cord (where it branches).
Nerves are the main organs of the body that extends from the brain and the spinal cord. Its main function is to send the messages throughout the body. Pinched nerve is one common problem which distracts the normal working of the nerves causing painful conditions.
In general, pinched nerve occurs at the base of spine. It may also cause numbness in legs. Often times it may also happen in the neck causing dizziness or loss of balance.
Page Contents (Quick View)
- What Is Pinched Nerve?
- Pinched Nerve In Neck Vs Herniated Disc
- Pinched Nerve In Neck Vs Pulled Muscle
- How To Fix A Pinched Nerve In Neck?
What Is Pinched Nerve?
In case if you have a pinched nerve (also called as nerve compression and cervical radiculopathy), your body sends warning signs like pain and irritation which need to be considered and treated as soon as possible.
Pinched nerve in the neck is basically a condition that is related to the neck, shoulder or back pain. It may be severe or minor and may cause short-term or long lasting issues, depending on the cause and many other governing factors.
The painful condition usually occurs due to the compressed or irritated nerve in the neck region. The sooner you get it diagnosed, the quicker it may be treated so that you do not get any further problems.
How to Get it Diagnosed?
For diagnosing pinched nerve, health care experts performs careful examination by going through the medical history of the patient. Electromyography is sometimes performed to substantiate the diagnosis of the pinched nerve and to determine the level of the damage which has been caused in the nerve.
In case, if the pinched nerve is felt in the back or the neck region, then a CT scan or MRI test can be performed to know the real cause and for starting the treatment as soon as possible. Based on diagnosis results and causes, treatment is to be followed further to let the patient feel better.
What Are The Symptoms?
The common symptoms of a pinched nerve in the neck are:
- Pain in the compression area like low back and neck
- Radicular pain like Sciatica
- Tingling feel or numbness
- Burning or electric sensation
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Feeling of weakness mainly after performing certain actions
It has been seen that these symptoms get worse when certain movements or activities are performed; like turning the head or twisting the neck suddenly.
What Are The Common Causes?
A pinched nerve happens when there is a sudden pressure exerted on the nerve (mainly known as compression) by its surrounding tissues. This compression may happen due to the repeated motions or due to keeping of the body in a single position for long period; like placing elbows bent during the sleep. Pinched nerve is also common during working out sessions (mostly bench press exercises and weight lifting), while driving, times like pregnancy, etc.
Generally, the nerves are most vulnerable at some places of the body where they travel through the narrow spaces and have soft tissues to guard them. This nerve pressure happens when the nerve is compressed between the tissues like: tendon, ligament, cartilage, muscles and bone.
For instance, a pressure or an inflammation on the nerve end may cause low back pain or neck pain and may even lead to radiate pain from the neck into the arm and shoulder or into the foot and leg causing Sciatic nerve pain.
Pinched Nerve In Neck Vs Herniated Disc
Pinched nerve and herniated disc are two common problems which can be the cause of chronic pain in your neck and back. But what is the real reason (between the two) and what is the basic difference between them is the real concern for most of the individuals suffering from pain.
Unbelievable, but true – herniated disc and pinched nerves happens simultaneously in most of the cases. This is due to the fact that pinched nerves usually occur by a herniated disc that is pressed against it.
Herniated disc is caused due to the normal wear and tear of the disc along with disc degeneration, as a normal effect of aging.
Pinched nerve, on the other hand, is generally caused due to the disc which is herniated and pressed against the nerve. As discussed before, poor posture, injury, arthritis, obesity, etc are some other causes of pinched nerve.
Pinched Nerve In Neck Vs Pulled Muscle
Pinched nerve is often referred to and used in place of pulled muscle by most of the individuals. However it is important to understand that pinched nerve and pulled muscle are not the same.
Although both of these conditions are caused due to the result of high intensity exercises or activities there are difference between them.
Pulled muscles are much easier to get than as compared to pinched nerve as it is caused due to the strenuous activity, bad posture while working out, overextended muscles after long hours of work, etc.
Pinched nerve, on the other hand, may also be caused without the strenuous activities. For instance sleeping in an awkward position for long time, without a proper pillow support can cause a pinched nerve in neck or shoulder blade.
The pain caused due to pulled muscles may last for several days whereas the pain due to pinched nerve gets relaxed quickly, usually with few home remedies.
How To Fix A Pinched Nerve In Neck?
What to do for a pinched nerve in neck?
The treatment for pinched nerve in neck varies from person to person based upon the symptoms and its causes. A simple rest to the injured part may benefit a lot while performing tough activities may surely worsen the problem.
If the signs of pain persist and gets severe, then it is advised to consult a doctor immediately. Probably, you may require some specific treatment to minimize the problem of compressed nerve. Based on your problem your doctor may advice few of these treatments for pinched nerve in neck:
Consuming more calcium and potassium rich foods can be a best solution for treating pinched nerve problem. Lowering of calcium and potassium levels in the body is one major factor which triggers the risk of getting pinched nerve more often. Taking appropriate amount of calcium and potassium rich foods and calcium supplements on the other hand promotes nerve health and lowers the chances of getting pinched nerve.
Muscle relaxers for pinched nerve in neck are often prescribed by doctors for to relieve agonizing episodes of pain. Muscles relaxers works differently than the normal drugs as it targets the central nervous system and brain. These offers calming effect on the body which helps to feel less or no pain at all. Above all these are not addictive like other muscle relaxants or pain relievers. Acetaminophen, Carisoprodol, Cyclobenzaprine, Diazepam, Orphenadrine are the few muscle relaxers to name.
Pain and inflammation relieving medications like injection or Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin are additionally used to reduce the pain and swelling caused due to pinched nerve. Make sure that you consult your doctor before trying them out and follow the dosage carefully as recommended by your physician. Also check and know about the possible side effects of using them before trying.
A soft collar or a splint which limits the neck and head motions and lets the muscles rest for longer period can also prove much helpful in fighting pinched nerve problem.
In certain cases, surgery is advised when the problem does not respond to the drugs and other types of treatment options. Pinched nerve in the neck causing vertigo is many times relieved by surgical methods where the bone causing nerve compression is removed by the surgeon.
In addition to above, it is advised to try these home remedies for preventing and relieving pinched nerve in neck:
- A hot shower once or twice in a week
- Taking enough rest and using best neck pillow for easing pinched nerve
- Lying flat with a rolled up cloth or a towel placed under the neck for maximum comfort
- Getting a professional massage or using a handheld self massager
- losing weight for obese person
Best Exercises for Relieving Pinched Nerve in Neck
The best method to cure the pinched nerve is to perform certain exercises and physical therapy that are meant for easing the pain of compressed nerve in neck. Following five exercises are often recommended by physicians and physical therapists.
Exercise 1: Stand straight and place the hands next to the thighs. Slowly tuck the chin in and bring your head forward as it brings the chin near to the chest. Repeat this 5 to 7 times and perform twice or thrice in a day.
Exercise 2: Stand or sit straight and look straight, lean the head towards the right shoulder and come back to the center point slowly and lean it back to the left shoulder. It is essential that every movement is controlled and not performed quickly, as it may aggravate the problem. Repeat the neck stretch 5 to 6 times in a day.
Exercise 3: Place your shoulders in a lower position and rotate the neck from right to left side slowly. Control the movements as this is the best exercise to perform and feel better. This exercise is a part of physical therapy.
Exercise 4: Stand straight and place the hand on the body’s either sides and elbows bent. Slowly bring the shoulder blades closer to one another and roll the shoulders backwards for 10 to 15 times like the previous exercise. This exercise is helpful for trapped neck.
Exercise 5: Sit straight on the chair and extend the hands in front. Using the right hand, hold the left hand’s wrist, and try to drag the arm and shoulder above the head towards the right side. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds and slowly return it the normal position. Repeat this for 1 to 10 times, thrice in a day and feel better in pain.
Ice Or Heat: What Should Be Best Used For Pinched Nerve?
Ice or heat therapy can be best used as a first aid at home, for problems such as pinched nerves and pulled muscles.
Although both of these treatment methods are effective enough and are recommended for relieving the problems, it is best in your interest to know about which one will produce the most desiring results and pain relief.
Ice or cold pack is generally used for reducing the inflammation, swelling and discomfort caused due to pinched nerve, by contacting the blood vessels and enhancing the circulation.
Whereas hot compress wraps provides the relaxation and pain relief to the muscles, blood vessels and nerves after the swelling is gone.
As hot and cold therapies respond differently, it is important that you use the best one that can help relieve the pinched nerve pain.
Many people find combining both of these therapies useful in curing the pinched nerve in the neck. Doctors therefore recommend that you try exploring both these treatment methods to find which one is best suited for you. Just make sure that you try the cold compress (in case swelling exists) first and then the hot one for relaxing.
The ultimate goal should be to fix the problem and find relief. You can therefore try one or the combination of both these methods.
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