Pinched Nerve in Neck

Pinched Nerve in Neck
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Nerves are kind of cells in microscopic size, they work like electrical cords–taking signals from your brain and send it to other parts of your body. These cords extend from brain and distribute into legs, arms, muscles and skin. There are two basic types of nerves in the body–central nerves and peripheral nerves. Central nerve is a nerve cell that stays within the spinal cord or in the brain, whereas the peripheral nerves are outside of the brain.

These nerves can get pinched/compressed due to injuries or underlying medical conditions. A pinched nerve in neck can cause pain and numbness in the arms and other limbs. Keep reading to learn the basic symptoms and some treatment options.

What Causes Pinched Nerve in Neck?

It is basically a condition involving a damaged nerve or set of nerves. The nerve becomes dysfunctional due to the damage and fails to carry signals required to control muscle movements. Pinched nerve can happen in the lower back, neck or even in your wrist.

You experience this situation due to many different conditions:

  • Herniated disks: Sometimes, your cervical disks slip out of place and exert pressure on a nerve in your neck.
  • Narrowing spinal space: You may have developed a pinched nerve in the neck due to a condition called spinal stenosis, which is the narrowing of the space within the vertebrae. With not enough space in the vertebrae, it may press on to a nerve in your neck and cause pain.
  • Degeneration of disks: The disks in your spine will deteriorate with age. When this happens, your vertebrae may become narrow and pinch a nerve.
  • Bony growths: Also known as bone spurs, these bony growths in your neck are the outcome of a degenerative disk disease such as arthritis. These bony growths put pressure on a nerve in your neck then cause pain and tingling sensation.

Symptoms and Complications of Pinched Nerve in Neck

Nerves in your neck extend down into your arms as well as your hands and fingers. Therefore, the most common symptom of compressed nerve in your neck is pain that radiates from your neck and moves to your arms or hands. You will experience numbness or prickling sensation in those limbs. You may even lose strength in your hands and even in shoulders due to compression.


Pinched or compressed nerve in cervical region is basically a nerve compression in the cervical region of the spine. There are seven vertebrates of the spine labeled as C1, C2, all the way up to C7. C8 is the root pair that is between the first thoracic vertebra and the last cervical vertebra (C7). When your spine becomes weak, it may put pressure on your nerves in different areas of your body. The pinched nerve at C5 will cause shoulder pain, but pinched nerve at C6 will lead to weakness of the wrist extensors and biceps. Any issue at C7 will cause numbness or pain that will travel down the arm to your middle finger, whereas pinched nerve C8 may lead to hand dysfunction.

Diagnosis of Pinched Nerve in Neck

Your doctor will begin with a physical examination and consider your medical history to determine what is causing trouble in your case. They will examine your shoulder, neck, hands, and arms to notice any muscle weakness, change in reflexes or loss of sensation. Your doctor may ask for certain tests to make a diagnosis. Some of the most common tests include the following:

  • X-rays: An x-ray will help your doctor check the alignment of bones in your neck and spine. They can also identify any narrowing of the foramen through x-rays.
  • CT scans: A CT scan offers detailed information about your spine and dense structures in your neck. It is possible to find any bone spurs in your cervical spine through CT scans.
  • MRI scans: These scans offer detailed images of soft tissues in your body. It helps confirm if any damage to your cervical spine is causing any trouble.
  • EMG: The test measures the electrical impulses of the muscles during contractions and at rest. Nerve conduction studies help a lot in determining any damage to a nerve.

Treatment for Compressed Cervical Nerve

Usually you do not need any treatment for compressed nerve in your neck as it resolves on its own. Severe cases may require surgery. Here are some treatment options to improve your symptoms.

Nonsurgical Treatment

These treatment options do not require any surgical intervention.

  • Soft cervical collar: You have to wear this padded ring around your neck to limit neck movement. This helps your neck muscles relax. Limited movement will reduce pressure on the nerve.
  • Physical therapy: You may have to go for physical therapy to understand how to perform certain exercises to strengthen your neck muscles. This will help improve range of motion and relieve pain as well.
  • Medications: Your doctor will prescribe NSAIDs like ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen, Oral corticosteroids, Steroid injection or Narcotics to help improve your symptoms, to relieve pain and inflammation.

Surgical Treatment

If nonsurgical treatment options do not work, your doctor may recommend surgery. There are a number of surgical procedures such as anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion (ACDF), artificial disk replacement (ADR) and posterior cervical laminoforaminotomy for pinched nerve in neck. Your doctor will consider a number of factors, such as your symptoms, your medical history, etc. to determine the best surgical procedure.