The nerves in the neck are critical for arm movement, a variety of sensations and for the brain. When one of these nerves get pinched, it can cause a variety of symptoms depending on which nerve is affected. People may have numbness or weakness in the arms or hands, neck stiffness or pain or pain going down an arm.
How Does a Pinched Nerve in the Neck Happen?
A nerve becomes pinched when direct compression or pressure is applied to it. Once pinched, the affected nerve is no longer able to conduct its signal properly. Imagine squeezing a water hose and the water being cut off completely, or the flow significantly reduced. In the case of nerves, the signal is like the water in a kinked hose. It either will not get through, or will partially, resulting in the job of the signal not getting done.
A nerve can be pinched due to a variety of issues. Some of the most common are herniated discs in the cervical spine, narrowing of the spinal cord in the neck, bone spurs and arthritis.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve in the Neck?
The symptoms of a pinched nerve in the neck are not exclusive to the neck alone. At least one of the arms is also generally affected because the nerves in this area of the spine provide a lot of information to get the arms to work.
Pain is generally the number one symptom. It can get quite severe and is often present in the neck and then radiates down an arm. Sensation issues are possible. You may not be able to fully feel hot and cold or other sensations. The arm affected by the pinched nerve can become weak. This can affect the entire arm as well as the hand, causing issues like reduced grip strength. Other common symptoms include burning, tingling and numbness in the neck and down an arm.
What Are Your Options Pinched Nerve Treatment in the Neck?
This condition is often painful so pain medications are often given to alleviate discomfort. Common pain medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, narcotics, oral steroids and spinal injections of steroids. Soft collars and physical therapy are also very common. In some cases, surgical intervention is recommended.
Another treatment option for a pinched nerve in the neck is cervical traction. This is a treatment method that stretches the soft tissues and spinal vertebrae, allowing for the compressed nerve to “escape” what is compressing it. This is a non-surgical treatment and it can often be done at home at your convenience.
Most cervical traction devices require the user to spend seven to 15 minutes in traction, once or twice a day. There are no side effects and the treatment is often effective in helping a pinched nerve to heal. This can be done alone or used along with most other therapies. However, many people will not need any other therapy in addition to neck traction.