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What is a Pinched Nerve in the Neck?
A pinched nerve can cause minor discomfort or it can incapacitate you. It depends on the location of the nerve and the degree of compression. Nerves are located all over your body and help it function as it should, but when one of them is damaged from compression, very uncomfortable symptoms can result. A nerve located in your cervical spine may lead to neck pain, or pain that also moves elsewhere in your body. If symptoms last for more than a few days, it is important to visit a doctor to get a proper diagnosis and relief from your discomfort.
A pinched nerve is a result of pressure, or compression, on a nerve. This can occur from repetitive motions or from staying in the same position for too long. Obesity and age are two other factors that can contribute to a pinched nerve in the neck.
A pinched nerve in the neck can cause varying symptoms in different patients. The most common symptoms are pain, tingling, numbness, and feeling “pins and needles” at the site of the compressed nerve. Pinched nerves in the neck can lead to radiating pain down through the shoulders, arms, or legs. The neck, or cervical spine, has seven vertebrae running from the base of the skull down through the neck and upper portion of the back. Nerve roots are associated with every vertebrae, and each different nerve that may become pinched can cause a different symptom or location of the symptom.
Anyone can experience a pinched nerve, but some people are at more risk than others. Those with a herniated disc or weakened disc are more prone to nerves becoming compressed. Anyone who is inactive or overuses the neck and spine can end up with a pinched nerve. Other common risk factors are poor posture, heredity, pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, or bone spurs.
Treatment of a pinched nerve in the neck depends on the cause of the problem and its severity. Once a physician such as Dr. Fischer at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City has confirmed that you have a pinched nerve, there are a variety of possible recommendations for treatment. Sometimes all that is needed is resting the affected area and avoiding movements that magnify your symptoms. Other options may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce pain and swelling, or oral corticosteroids for the same purpose. Narcotics may be prescribed for a short time if pain is severe. Wearing a splint to limit movement, performing physical therapy activities, or receiving steroid injections are other alternatives. If these methods don’t give the results you need, Dr. Fischer may recommend surgery in severe cases. It might be necessary for the surgeon to remove an item that is compressing the nerve, such as scar tissue or bone fragments. Dr. Fischer will perform minimally invasive surgical techniques if possible to optimize patient care and recovery. Whatever is causing the pinched nerve in your neck and whatever treatment is pursued, Dr. Fischer will be there to help return you to your normal life without any more pinched nerve pain.