Many people have had the experience of a pinched nerve in their neck. It’s painful and uncomfortable. Often, the neck seems fine at first, but when the head is turned, there is a sharp, stabbing pain. Sometimes this injury can creep up on one – there is no event or causing factor in some cases that can be pointed to as the reason for the pinched nerve.
What causes a pinched nerve in neck? There are several factors that can cause this sensation. Because the neck muscles, spine, spinal cord, and other nerves and muscles are involved, this area of the body is highly complex, and it is not always easy to determine the cause of a pinched nerve in neck.
The nerves which exit the spinal cord are called peripheral nerves. In some cases they can become compressed or obstructed, which can lead to the sensation of a pinched nerve in the neck. Bone spurs, which are abnormal growth of bone on the neck, can sometimes case the nerve to get blocked or pinched.
Bulging neck discs or herniated discs can also be the culprit. The discs are what keeps the bones of the spine separated – – they act as cushions between the vertebrae. If they slide out of place, they can press down on the nerves coming out of the spine and cause pain and the pinched nerve in the neck sensation.
Because of the way pain and sensation or transmitted throughout he nerves, the pain can actually be felt in a different location than where the injury is emanating from. We feel things through our nerves — the messages of pain or sensation travel over a distance, crossing axons and dendrites, which are the parts of the nerves which allow this transmission. An injury can be in on one location, but the nerve ending may be in a different place, so it is not always the case that the injury is where you feel the pain.
Sometimes the soft tissue around the spine becomes calcified. This means that the normally soft and spongy tissue becomes hardened and stiff. This can also cause a pinched nerve in the neck. Because the tissue is calcified, it can block the nerve from going where it normally would go.
A pinched nerve in neck can cause a number of symptoms, including burning, tingling, numbness, and pain. In some cases, the pain can be so severe that it mimics a heart attack. Other symptoms include weakness and a prickling sensation.
It is important to go to a doctor if you feel that you have a pinched nerve in the neck and it does not resolve after a day or so. A doctor can recommend exercises and treatment for the pinched nerve. In some cases, a doctor will have the patient wear a cervical collar to support and stabilize the neck so it can heal.