Structure of the Neck
The cervical vertebrae referred to as the neck, have building blocks made up of bone. There are seven vertebrae that surround the spinal cord and spinal canal. Discs cushion the vertebrae due to the gelatinous material in the centre of these discs. On each side of the vertebrae and discs, are the nerves of the neck. The neck structure is comprised of muscles, arteries, veins, glads, esophagus, larynx and the trachea. Any of these tissues in the neck may result in conditions that cause neck pain.
What is a Pinched Nerve?
One of the most common conditions that affect the neck area is a pinched nerve. When a nerve is pinched in the neck, either one or a set of nerves are affected by excess pressure being applied to the nerve of surrounding tissues. This results in the function of the nerve being disturbed.
Pinched nerves may be in your neck, shoulder, elbow and other parts of your body, however, the most common is said to be in your neck.
Discs are healthy and are structured to allow space to allow the nerve to easily pass through. If the disc protrudes or is herniated, the disc then alters the structure of the neck with the result a pinched nerve.
If there are bone spurs or neck arthritis, the structure of the neck may be altered. In this case, if a hard formation touches the nerve, the result again may be a pinched nerve.
Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve in the Neck
Typical symptoms of a pinched nerve in the neck may include, but is not limited to:
- Pain radiating outward and down from the affected nerve
- Muscle weakness
These symptoms are dependent on the path that the nerve travels through. If you experience a strain of the muscles, or coughing and/or sneezing you may experience more discomfort and the foregoing symptoms may become worse.
Preventing a Pinched Nerve
The following may be helpful in preventing a pinched nerve:
- Maintain good posture and a healthy weight
- Have a regular exercise program that includes strength and flexibility exercises and stretches
- Limit repetitive activities
Treatment of a Pinched Nerve
There are various treatments for a pinched nerve. While exploring treatment options, you may choose to use over the counter medication, anti-inflammatory medications and muscle relaxants. These medications, coupled with rest, have often been effective in providing relief while recovering from a pinched nerve.
Most effective treatments are heat/ice; massage/manipulation; and physical therapy. The cause of the pinched nerve is important as it will dictate the most effective form of treatment. Depending on the extent of damage and the cause of the pinched nerve, surgery may be required.
Should surgery be required, it is important to prepare a list of questions for your doctor, including the various forms of surgery available to you. Explore all options and if possible, seek a second opinion. There are pros and cons to surgery and it is important to obtain all facts before making this important decision. The risks with conservative surgery are high in comparison to minimally invasive surgery. Studies have shown that the benefits and recovery time, including a speedy return to your normal day to day routine with minimally invasive surgery are very successful.