Trapped Nerve in the neck

By Dr Guy Ashburner | September 1, 2018

Trapped Nerve in the neck

Look well to the spine for the cause of disease - Hippocrates (450 B.C) Father of modern medicine

A trapped nerve (pinched or impinged nerve) is the result of pressure being applied to a nerve. The symptoms of a trapped nerve in the neck can vary in severity from mild to severe and painful depending on the degree of entrapment. Nerve pain usually happens due to compression between the neck facet joints that connect each spinal bone to the next. The facet joints are surrounded by capsules that when put under strain become inflamed and subsequently put pressure on the spinal nerves exiting in that region, creating the nerve pain. Trapped nerves can also be impinged by a bone, disc, ligament or muscle being out of place, thereby pressing on the nerve causing a disruption in the nerve’s ability to function.

The nerve can be irritated, inflamed or pressed on and this can produce symptoms such as pain that is aching or sharp, neck or spinal pain, shoulder pain, pain that radiates down the arm, a burning sensation or numbness, and pins and needles in arms and fingers, headaches, muscle wasting and loss of grip strength. When a nerve is trapped, the pain and other symptoms may not be at the actual site. Instead, the pain and other sensations can travel to other parts of the body, including down and through the arm. The heavier the pressure on the nerve, the further away pain can be felt from where it is trapped.

Trapped nerves are usually associated with hours of sitting with poor posture, either at a desk or a computer, or staring down at smartphones and tablets and driving. Sitting or standing hunched over, head forward is hard on your body. All that bending can cause compression of nerves, and pain, numbness and tingling in the fingers. Further trauma and strain on the neck and spine resulting in neck pain can be caused by sports injuries, road traffic accidents, falling down the stairs, repetitive strain, sleeping awkwardly and inappropriate exercise. These faulty movement patterns and traumas can cause the spinal vertebrae to stiffen up instead of being able to move freely. When this happens, the joints in the spine do not move properly increasing the potential for strain with subsequent inflammation. These pressure changes causing irritation to the nerve next to it which then results in a trapped nerve.

If ignored these symptoms may be more difficult to resolve with treatment. When the pressure is relieved, normal function returns rather quickly.


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