Sometimes a pinched nerve in the neck can arise when an anatomical abnormality in the upper, or cervical, spine – such as a bulging disc, herniated disc, calcified ligament, or bone spur – places pressure on the spinal cord or a nerve root. Nerve compression can cause symptoms of localized pain, radiating pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness. The severity and frequency of your symptoms will vary from those of other patients, but it doesn’t mean that living with those symptoms will be any less difficult. There are some initial steps you can take to help relieve your symptoms and make getting through each day a little easier.
Stretch and Move
It may seem counterintuitive to move your head and neck when it’s painful, but keeping them in one position or resting for an extended period of time may actually cause more harm than good. Performing gentle stretches and moving your head and neck around can help improve blood flow to the affected area and relieve muscle tension. Whether you’re at home or work, you can take a few minutes every hour to stretch. Performing yoga or other low-impact exercises may also help relieve neck pain.
Oftentimes, neck and back pain caused by a pinched nerve can be treated with over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as naproxen or ibuprofen. These drugs work to relieve mild to moderate pain and block inflammation-inducing enzymes, which can contribute to nerve irritation.
Apply Heat and/or Cold
Applying a heating pad to the neck can help increase blood flow to the affected area and relieve muscle tension. Alternatively, applying an ice pack or cold compress to the painful area of the neck can help reduce inflammation and numb pain. In some cases, alternating between heat and cold may provide the best results.
See Your Physician
If your neck pain and other symptoms do not dissipate within a few days, you may want to schedule another visit with your physician. He or she can recommend additional treatments like prescription medication and injections that could help mitigate your discomfort.