A pinched nerve in the neck is a result of excessive pressure on the nerve from nearby tissue such as bones, muscles or tendons. This pressure interferes with proper functioning and causes pain, tingling, numbness or weakness. Common causes include physical activity, injury, poor posture, and repetitive movement. Conservative treatments can usually help you recover within a few days or weeks, but surgery is sometimes required.
The first line of treatment for a pinched nerve is resting the affected area. Try not to move your head excessively, and avoid quick turns or jerks. A neck pillow can make you more comfortable. Your doctor will instruct you to cease any activity that may aggravate the nerve. He might also suggest wearing a neck brace to prevent movement; this will facilitate faster healing. Pay attention to these instructions; going against them can delay healing or cause further injury.
Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil, Motrin and Aleve can address mild pain as well as inflammation. If your pain is more serious, your doctor can give you prescription-strength NSAIDs. Corticosteroid injections are also an option and can quickly ease pain and inflammation; these treatments are usually reserved for severe pain.
A physical therapist can teach you exercises that stretch the muscles in the neck area as well as strengthen them. This will relieve pressure on the pinched nerve in the neck. She can also help you modify normal activities that might aggravate the injury. You should not attempt exercises on your own; you could do more harm than good. Let a professional show you safe exercises.
If these conservative treatments have not healed the pinched nerve within a few weeks to a few months, surgery might be necessary to relieve pressure on the nerve. The type of surgery for your pinched nerve will depend on where it is located within the neck.
You can do several things to reduce your risk of a pinched nerve. Pay attention to your posture. Make sure your fitness program includes exercises that address strength and flexibility. Limit repetitive activities, and when you are taking part in them, take regular breaks. Keeping your weight under control is also important.