Pinched Nerve in Neck

By Ehren Allen, Certified Manual Therapist/Physical Therapist

How Does the Neck Cause Nerve Pain?

Neck pain can take many forms.  It may start with a little stiffness when looking side to side while driving, or it may cause a headache when sitting at a computer.  The neck contains many structures which may lead to pain or other symptoms.  The nerves that send and receive information from the arms and shoulders pass through the spaces between the bones in the neck.  Issues in the neck can affect those nerves.


3D illustration x-ray neck painful, medical concept.

How Does the Neck Cause Pain in the Arm and Shoulder?

The brain receives information from the shoulder and arm through nerves that pass through the neck.  If something in the neck applies compression to a nerve, it may alter the information the nerve is carrying.  It may also send a painful message to the brain.  If the nerve pinched nerve usually carries information from the arm or shoulder, the brain may interpret that the new painful message is coming from the arm or shoulder.  The brain then interprets this as arm or shoulder pain instead of a problem in the neck.  Thus, it feels like the problem is in the arm when it is actually in the neck.

What Causes a Pinched Nerve in the Neck?

There are many structures in the neck which may cause issues with a nerve.  Inflammation around the nerve may apply pressure to the nerve.  Arthritis in the joints of the neck can cause inflammation and degenerative changes to the joints may cause compression as well.  The disk between each vertebrae in the neck can become inflamed or even herniated and apply pressure to a nerve.

How Can You Tell if You Have a Pinched Nerve in the Neck?

If there is pain, numbness, or weakness in the shoulder, arm, or hand that does not change with movement of the arm, this may indicate the pain is referred from another source.  If the symptoms change with movement of the neck, the problem may be in the neck.  This can be more thoroughly examined by a skilled clinician.  A Nerve Conduction Study can be done as well, to determine the source of the symptoms.  Other imaging of the neck, such as X-rays and MRIs may be appropriate depending on the symptoms and severity.

How Do you Fix a Pinched Nerve in the Neck?

To fix a pinched nerve or nerve pain/symptoms, taking pressure off of the nerve is vital. A simple solution such as addressing posture issues can be very beneficial as well.  Stretching and strength exercises for the neck and upper back may help to decrease the repetitive stress which may lead to a pinched nerve. In some circumstances, steroid injection may be beneficial to address the inflammation in the neck.  In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary.

The Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute has a team of experts to help with pinched nerves in the neck.  From conservative treatment to advanced surgical intervention, we have the answers for you.  Come see us!

JOI can help treat a Pinched Nerve in your Neck

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To schedule a new patient or follow up patient appointment with your MD, please call (904)JOI-2000.

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Please watch our Video Neck Stretches For The Office

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