How to Detect a Pinched Nerve in the Neck


A pinched nerve occurs when a nerve is compressed by nearby tissues, such as muscles and bones. Too much pressure will cause the nerve to be damaged and disrupt the signal being sent along the nerve. You can develop it anywhere in the body. A pinched nerve in the neck is often caused by other conditions such as arthritis or a herniated disc, which is an abnormal rupture of the soft central part of the disc between your vertebrae. You can take steps to detect the condition, which will help lead you to recovery.

Things You'll Need

  • Physician
  • X-ray
  • MRI
  • Nerve testing

Identify your symptoms to determine if you may have a pinched nerve in your neck. Common symptoms are pain, feeling of pins and needles, numbness and muscle weakness. A pinched nerve in your neck can cause pain and stiffness, and can cause symptoms down your arm. In general, the symptoms can occur at the site of the nerve damage or further down the nerve path, according to MedicineNet.

Go to the doctor to get a diagnosis. He will begin by asking you some basic questions, so prepare yourself ahead of time. He may ask: What are your symptoms, and where do you feel them? How long have you felt the symptoms? What position triggers the symptoms?

You may also need to provide information about your other medical conditions and medical history.

Undergo a physical examination done, focusing on the affected area of the body. Your doctor may test your muscle strength and sensation.

Get additional tests done if your doctor recommends it. If a pinched nerve in your neck is suspected, x-rays could be used to detect arthritis or an injury to your spine. If you have more severe symptoms, more imaging tests such as an MRI or CT scan would provide more information about the nerve damage and determine if surgery is necessary.

Have specific tests done for the affected nerve, if recommended. A nerve conduction study, in which electrodes placed on your skin stimulate the nerve, will determine if you have a damaged nerve. Also, electromyography (EMG) is used to find damage to the nerve leading to the muscle. It involves a needle electrode placed into the muscle.

Tips & Warnings

  • Once you detect whether you have a pinched nerve in your neck, you can go about treating it. Most people diagnosed with a pinched nerve recover with treatment, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
  • Treatment includes wearing a brace, physical therapy, pain medication, as well as surgery, in severe cases.

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