Brief Outline of Pinched Nerve to the neck
Nerves controlling the shoulder, arm and hand originate within the spinal cord in the neck. Inflammation or compression of one of these structures is known as a pinched nerve or cervical radiculitis, and results in pain, weakness, and loss of movement. Herniation of the cervical discs – often caused by repetitive stress – can impinge on the cervical nerves, also causing the injury.
Anatomy and physiology
Cervical radiculitis occurs when a disc from one of the seven cervical vertebrae making up the upper spine presses against the spinal nerves connecting to the spinal cord. Such nerves branch to numerous areas of the body, and symptoms may radiate from the source along the nerve to areas where the nerve travels. Depending on the affected disc impinging on the cervical nerve, pain may occur in the arm, chest, neck, or shoulders.
Cause of pinched nerve
Herniated disc pressing on a nerve. Irritation of the nerve due to repetitive stress. Bone spurs or degenerating vertebrae impinging on a nerve.
Signs and symptoms of pinched nerve
Pain, weakness, and loss of movement in the neck. Numb fingers. Weak muscles in the arms and chest.
Complications if left unattended
Inflammation and pain associated with pinched nerves may continue or worsen, should the source of the injury not be addressed. The nerve may become permanently damaged through continued pressure and stress, and the condition may point to other (potentially serious) underlying injuries to the vertebrae or spinal cord.
Treatment for pinched nerve
- Cease activity stressful to the cervical spine.
Rehabilitation and prevention
Given proper treatment, the prognosis for cervical radiculitis is generally good. Mild cases usually respond to physical therapy in conjunction with medications such as NSAIDs. Following healing, a program of physical therapy and flexibility / strengthening exercises can help restore to your usual self. Attention to proper technique, particularly during weight training/weight lifting can help prevent pinched nerve injury.
Most cervical pinched nerve injuries resolve themselves without serious medical intervention. More serious or prolonged cases may require surgery to relieve compression of the nerve root.