A pinched nerve in the neck is not a rare phenomenon. Apparently, pinched nerves are the most common cause of neck and shoulder pain. A cervical pinched nerve, medically known as cervical radiculopathy, is a condition where the nerve roots in the neck are irritated or compressed due to excessive pressure.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, cervical radiculopathy is often caused by "wear and tear" changes that occur in the spine as we age, such as arthritis. In younger people, it is most often caused by a sudden injury that results in a herniated disk. In most cases, a pinched nerve in the neck responds well to conservative treatments such as physical therapy and medications.
Usually, the pain associated with a trapped nerve in the neck starts with the neck and travels down the arm in the area connected with the compressed nerve. This pain can feel like a burning or sharp tingling sensation. Certain neck movements, such as extending the neck or turning the head, may increase the pain. Some other symptoms may include -
Typically, it takes four weeks for the pain associated with a pinched nerve to subside. However, the symptoms may return over time. Here are ten ways to fix pinched nerve in the neck at home -
The first course of action to treat a pinched nerve in the neck is to give yourself rest. Limited movement can help reduce the chances of severe pain and inflammation. For the first few days, consider avoiding activities that require moving neck muscles. This may not completely eradicate the symptoms but can help mitigate the pain for a while.
Severe neck pain can also disturb sleep, which can aggravate the situation. Use cervical pillows designed to support the neck and promote a peaceful night's sleep.
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and Excedrin can also relieve the inflammation and pain caused by a pinched nerve in the neck. However, if you are averse to NSAIDs, you can also use topical pain relievers such as sprays, balms, and gels to mitigate the pain. These analgesics contain menthol, which counterirritates the nerve endings and locally numbs the area.
Once the pain subsides, you can gently stretch the neck muscles to relieve tension and pressure in the neck and shoulders. It is important to note that too much movement can make situations worse. Although some stretches might cause little discomfort at first; however, if you experience moderate to severe pain, consider stopping and consulting a doctor to avoid any further damage.
There is nothing a therapeutic massage can't do. Gently massaging your neck can relieve the tension from the pinched nerve and release stress from the body. Consider only gentle massage on the pain point. Too much pressure on the neck may worsen the symptoms. You can also use manual or electric massagers to massage the area on your own.
One of the most common causes of a pinched nerve is sleeping in the wrong position. If you are a stomach or back sleeper, consider sleeping on your side to prevent excessive pressure on the already compressed nerves. Choose a pillow that is neither too thick nor too thin and supports your neck and shoulder adequately.
A soft collar is a padded ring that is put around the neck and fixed using Velcro. It limits neck movement and allows the muscles to rest. A neck collar can also help decrease the pinching of the nerve roots. Most doctors advise a cervical collar for short-term pain relief only since long-term use can impact neck muscle strength.
Temperature therapy is a great pain-relieving method which has been around for centuries. To treat a trapped nerve in the neck, use ice packs on the area in the first two days to reduce inflammation, followed by heat packs for pain relief. You can use both therapies simultaneously to improve blood circulation to the painful area. Make sure not to apply ice or heat packs directly to the skin to avoid ice or heat burns. Use a towel to wrap the pack.
Cervical traction is often used in conjunction with physical therapy to treat a pinched nerve in the neck. It involves gently stretching the neck and separating the disc and joint surfaces in the cervical spine. Apart from relieving neck pain, cervical traction also enhances the range of motion of the neck, aligns the spine, improves gait and posture, and makes the muscles more flexible. You can use a cervical traction device at home to treat a pinched nerve in the neck.
Electrotherapy is gaining popularity as a credible pain-relieving method. Electrical muscle stimulation involves sending electrical impulses into the body to relieve tension and pressure. A TENS or EMS unit produces low-voltage electrical currents using electrodes placed on the pain area. The currents interrupt the pain signals sent to the brain and reduce the pain and inflammation.
Once the pain and inflammation are relieved, consider low-impact activities such as swimming, stretching, yoga, cycling, or brisk walking to keep yourself active. An active lifestyle improves the body's overall functioning and helps in quicker recovery. For overweight or obese individuals, losing some weight can also help prevent pinched nerves.
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Shweta Chaubey, has been a Health Products For You contributor since 2021. An advocate-turned-writer, her desire to create meaningful and positive content has brought her to HPFY and what better than writing ...
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