A pinched nerve can seem like a minor nuisance. Sometimes, it is referred to as having a “krick in the neck.” Maybe that’s just something our grandparents would say after waking up with neck pain. Regardless of what we call it in layman’s terms, a pinched nerve in the neck is something to pay attention to. Here, we discuss why this problem may happen and what you can do to get to feeling better as quickly as possible.
What is a Pinched Nerve in Neck?
A spine doctor refers to a pinched nerve in the neck as cervical radiculopathy. This describes a nerve that is compressed and irritated. Compression usually occurs where the nerve branches off the spinal cord and exits the spinal column. Here, there are a few reasons the nerve may encounter difficulty. The spinal column is a series of several bones. In between each set is a cushiony disc. These are all moving parts, so to speak, they flex and rotate as needed to support physical motion. Due to these motions, the openings through which nerves travel can be impeded.
A pinched nerve may be caused by:
- Injury to the back or neck
- Disc degeneration, the natural wearing-down of the disc between two vertebrae
- Disc herniation, damage that allows the inner gel of a disc to leak out into the nerve space
These are the most common reasons for cervical radiculopathy. Other factors that may cause a pinched nerve include:
- Spinal fracture
- Spondylolisthesis, a condition in which one vertebra slips forward over another.
- Spinal tumor
- Spinal infection
Do You Have a Pinched Nerve in Your Neck? Here’s How to Tell!
Signs of cervical radiculopathy include:
- Localized pain in the neck that worsens when you look one way or the other.
- Pain that radiates from the neck to the shoulder or arm.
- Numbness or tingling in the neck. This may radiate down one shoulder and arm.
- Muscle weakness. Nerve compression may result in a weak grip or decreased arm or shoulder strength.
Does a Pinched Nerve in the Neck Need Surgery?
This is the big question many people have when they experience neck pain. Usually, the answer is no. With rest, hot and cold therapy, medications, and, in some cases, physical therapy, nerve inflammation can be resolved. Only when conservative therapies are unable to achieve successful results do we consider surgery.