Pinched Nerve in Neck

By Sally Ann Quirke, Chartered Physiotherapist | Filed under: Neck Pain


Symptoms and Treatment of a Trapped Nerve in your Neck.

Treating a trapped nerve in neck
Assessing a trapped nerve in the neck

A pinched nerve in neck is one of the most common things that I see on a daily basis. Another description for pinched nerves in the neck is ‘impinged nerve’ or ‘a trapped nerve’. What these all generally mean is that a nerve in your neck is being squeezed in some way, resulting in nerve pain in your neck and also probably your shoulder and arm. What can we do to fix it!?


The symptoms of a pinched nerves in the neck can be very painful - they can vary in severity from mild and with a specific position, when the nerve is only mildly pinched, to severe and painful episodes with a heavily pinched nerve.

The symptoms of a pinched nerve can also present as pins and needles as well as numbness in your arm and fingers. If ignored can be more difficult to resolve with treatment. So the important message is that if you have nerve pain in your neck or arm that is not relieved with rest, seek medical advice from a physiotherapist.

Pinched nerves can be structural or postural.

In my experience, there are generally two causes of trapped nerves - structural and postural.

Structural pinched nerves generally present with severe neck pain and are frequently associated with pins and needles and numbness. Structural implies that some part of your neck anatomy - a bone, disc, ligament or muscle - is out of place, and pressing on the nerve. Relief from this type of nerve pain relies on a correct diagnosis from a physiotherapist and which is followed by the out-of-place structure being re-aligned. Relief from severe pain should be instant.

Postural pinching is a little different and is where the muscles, ligaments, discs or joints are pressing on a nerve in your neck due to poor postural alignments and habits.

Treatment involves releasing the tension in the structure that is pinching the nerve as well as exercises for posture correction. Response to posture correction usually takes over several days and maintaining posture exercises reduces the risk of re-occurrence.

Poor Posture is the most common cause of trapped nerves in the neck that I see. It is usually associated with office workers and drivers who adopt a poor sitting posture over an extended period of time. People who stare down into their smartphones or tablets are also vulnerable!

Seek early advice and treatment for your trapped nerve.

Some patients come to see me when they suffered for some time with severe pain resulting from a trapped nerve, and have found that pain medication is not necessarily helping them. That is understandable - while the medication may mask the severity of the effect of the problem, it is not really a cure as it does not address the underlying cause of the pain.

In summary, the causes of pinched nerves are many, but put simply, they can be categorised into two general categories I identified earlier. The most important aspect of managing this condition is to identify the cause, removing it and then strengthening the upper back and neck muscles to reduce the risk of your pinched nerve neck pain from returning in the future.

The good news is that treating this type of neck pain is often quick and effective when an early intervention is managed. Relying on medication to manage it is not a cure!

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While the content and materials contained in the articles on this website have been written & researched by Sally Ann Quirke, a professional, practising & fully qualified Chartered Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) based in Ireland, they are provided for general information and educational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice on any particular individual situation. Please see your Chartered Physiotherapist or other medical practitioner for full and individual consultation.

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