Structure of the Neck
There are seven vertebrae that are the bony building blocks of the spine in the neck (the cervical vertebrae) that surround the spinal cord and canal. Between these vertebrae are discs, and nearby pass the nerves of the neck. Within the neck, structures include the neck muscles, arteries, veins, lymph glands, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, esophagus, larynx, and trachea. Diseases or conditions that affect any of these tissues of the neck can lead to neck pain.
What is a Pinched Nerve?
A pinched nerve is one type of damage or injury to a nerve or a set of nerves. This occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues i.e. bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons. This pressure (compression) disrupts the nerve’s function, causing pain, tingling, numbness or weakness in the affected area. The pain radiates outward from the injured area.
Types of pinched nerves may be those in your neck, shoulder, elbow and other areas of your body.
A pinched nerve often results from neck arthritis that form bone spurs or decreases the opening through which a nerve travels or disc problems where a herniated disc presses on the nerve.
Treatment of a Pinched Nerve
Treatment varies depending on the cause of the pinched nerve, however it should be noted that most nerve compressions in the neck will heal without treatment. Depending on the degree of suffering, you may wish to pursue treatment for your pinched nerve. Treatment options may include:
Chiropractic: stress and nutritional and lifestyle factors are considered, especially as they relate to pain perception and reduction of inflammation. Conditioning and exercise, stress management, and improved nutrition and eating habits are all considered when the acute phase of pain and inflammation has been resolved.
Physical Therapy: An exercise program will be designed to meet your medical needs. They will be a combination of stretching and strengthening whereby these exercises will help restore function, improve mobility and relieve pain.
Cortisone Injections: considered to be a minimally invasive procedure
Ice Therapy: known to be useful for certain types of back muscle injuries. Ice will reduce swelling and provide minor pain relief by numbing local tissue. Ice also slows down neurological impulses in the area forcing nerves to transmit less pain messages to the brain. Ice may be applied with a cold gel pack or simply ice wrapped well in a towel. Never apply ice directly to the skin. Do not keep ice on the area for longer than 20 minutes at a time.
Heat Therapy: works to increase circulation to the affected area. It is most effective at treating muscular problems. Heat can be applied with a heating pad, but a hot wet towel can be far more effective.
Medication: to be used in conjunction with the above treatments or on its own, medications such as over the counter pain medications; anti-inflammatory; and muscle relaxants have provided pain relief for those suffering from a pinched nerve.
Surgery: In some cases, where the pain has become chronic, or where permanent damage has occurred, surgery may be explored. It is important to note that there are now very effective, minimally invasive surgeries available with the benefits far outweighing the conservative surgery.