A pinched nerve in the neck can be defined as the compression or stretching of the nerve/nerves found in the intervertebral areas of the neck. It may be caused due to a number of reasons such as poor posture, obesity, slipped disc, sports injury, exercise related injury, repetitive stress injury, osteoarthritis, trauma from an accident, neck arthritis, or degenerative disc diseases. Irrespective of the cause, it causes immense pain, not only in the neck but in the adjoining areas as well, such as arms, shoulders and back. Sometimes, it can be mistaken for a muscle pull or strain. So, before learning how to relieve the pinched nerve, it is important to understand its various symptoms as well.
Symptoms of Pinched Nerve in the Neck
Some of the commonly observed symptoms are sharp pains in the neck region, which grow worse when you chew, sneeze, yawn, or cough, numbness in the affected region, and a sensation of "pins and needles" in the affected area. Sometimes, the pain radiates towards the adjoining parts, and hence, headache, back pain, muscle spasms are also some of the other symptoms.
How to Fix a Pinched Nerve in the Neck
Resting is the easiest way to reduce the pain. As the symptoms may worsen if the affected area is moved often, avoid activities like lifting heavy objects which strains the muscles. Also, you can use a neck brace for support, which will minimize any movement or prevent pain due to jerks.
To help relieve the pain, you can apply a hot water bag or an ice pack on the affected area, for about ten minutes, frequently during the day. This option works best if it is implemented immediately after experiencing pain―it will prevent the pain from aggravating.
Another option to relieve the pain is to take painkillers such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Of course, as with any other medication, consulting a doctor prior to taking painkillers is recommended.
Regular application of pain-relieving ointments on the neck will bring tremendous relief from the pain. These ointments can be bought over-the-counter, or you may ask your doctor to prescribe a suitable one for you.
If the pain is fairly acute and refuses to die down, then you may consult your doctor and consider taking a cortisone injection or epidural injection. These injections greatly reduce the swelling and eventually the pain.
You can consult a physiotherapist who would suggest neck exercises to loosen the neck muscles. An easy exercise that you can attempt at home is to rotate your neck clockwise and anticlockwise alternately. Repeat it for a few times in a day to get relief from the tightness. Do consult a doctor so that you don't aggravate the condition.
Massage too, like exercise, helps in loosening the neck muscles. Ideally, opt for a massage by a trained professional. If you plan to massage the area by yourself, there are certain precautions that you should follow. Firstly, do not massage the affected area vigorously as it may lead to even more trauma. Secondly, always start massaging the affected area slowly and then build up pressure till you feel that the pinch in the nerve is loosening.
Another effective home remedy is to take a diet rich in fiber, because constipation can worsen the pain. You may also include calcium (the reason might be a deficiency), and vitamins in your diet. So, include lots of nutritious veggies and fruits in your diet. Changing dietary habits may also help prevent any potential health issues that may affect the pinched nerve pain.
In most cases, you will gain relief from a pinched nerve in the neck after following the above-mentioned remedies within a few days. However, if the condition fails to improve, then consult your doctor immediately for correct diagnosis and treatment.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.