“My body is like breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I don’t think about it; I just have it.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
It is easy to go through life without giving much thought to your body, especially if it is functionally normally and well. However, we can suddenly become quite aware of our bodies when we experience pain or dysfunction.
Unfortunately, for some people, this is a chronic issue and they cannot help thinking about their bodies. Or, to be more precise, their chronic pain. And pinched nerves in the neck – cervical radiculopathy – is a common cause of that pain.
Your Cervical Region: The Nexus of the Head and Body
The human body is a complex and wondrous organism that functions holistically and systemically. And when the various parts of the whole – and their various movements and structures – are functioning properly it is a marvelous organism.
But sometimes things get off track.
When this happens in the cervical region muscle pain and dysfunction are common. And, many times, so are compressed or “pinched” spinal nerves. This area is where the head meets the body, where the skull rests upon the first cervical vertebrae, or atlas. It is also where eight pairs of cervical never roots branch out from the spinal cord between the cervical vertebrae through small openings called foramen.
And, unlike the rest of the spine, these cervical vertebrae have special openings for arteries that run through these spaces to bring blood to the brain.
In between each vertebra rest a soft, gel-like cushion, called an intervertebral disc. These flat, round discs act as shock absorbers by helping absorb pressure put on the spine. The discs also prevent the vertebral bones from rubbing against each other.
And, when all these components work together as intended, we rarely notice them.
Until those root nerve openings suddenly narrow and a nerve root is compressed or even damaged. Or perhaps one of the discs begins to bulge and presses against a nerve causing nerve root compression. The dysfunction can be gradual, such as a slow buildup of bone spurs or stenosis in the foramen. It can also be sudden, as with a ruptured or herniated disc.
Depending on which nerve is impacted, different regions of the back, shoulder, arm, hand and even fingers can be affected. Symptoms can include the following:
- Arm pain. The pain will typically be most intense in the shoulder and arm. This pain may shoot into your arm when you cough, sneeze or move your spine into certain positions.
- Numbness or tingling. People who have a herniated disk often experience numbness or tingling in the body part served by the affected nerves.
- Weakness. Muscles served by the affected nerves tend to weaken. This may impair your ability to lift or hold items.
According to WebMD, because nerve compression in your neck can cause symptoms in areas such as your elbow, hand, wrist and fingers it can also lead to such conditions as peripheral neuropathy or carpal tunnel syndrome.
If the nerve compression continues for a long time, the protective barrier around the nerve may break down and fluid may build up, which may cause swelling of the nerve leading to extra pressure. In more severe cases scarring of the nerve can occur with may then interfere with the nerve’s function.
Some people try to live with the pain, wanting to avoid possible surgery, and simply treat the symptoms as best they can. Unfortunately, Long term pressure on the nerve can produce atrophy or wasting of that muscle associated with the nerve.
Treating Cervical Nerve Pain and It’s Causes
Diagnosing the cause of your neck pain is essential to proper treatment and possibly eliminating it. We discuss the diagnostic process in a post that you can read here.
Treatment depends on the root cause, the severity and location of the nerve entrapment or compression. According to an article at Redfinehealthcare.com,
“In mild cases many patients find that rest, ice and medication may be enough to reduce the pain. Physical therapy is recommended to develop a series of postural, stretching and strengthening exercises to prevent re-occurrence of the injury. Return to activity should be gradual to prevent a return of symptoms.”
A more invasive treatment may involve the injection of corticosteroids to a specific cervical structure to reduce local inflammation caused that is irritating or pressing the nerve as it exits the foramen. And, in extreme cases, surgical procedures are sometimes recommended.
Often, the neck and shoulder pain that accompanies a compressed spinal never can even impair the mobility of the arms and hands. Neck problems can range from an uncomfortable, stiff neck, to more serious conditions such as spinal stenosis or herniated discs.
While many patients believe that their sore neck will resolve itself in time, getting neck pain relief with Active Release Technique® (ART) can be the proper treatment that can lead to a full recovery. The specific techniques that may be used are while getting neck pain relief with ART are designed based on each patient’s needs. Active Release Technique (ART) allows the therapist to isolate treatment to each individual small muscle of the neck and treat it through its full range of motion.
Your Better Choice for Chronic Neck Pain Treatment
At Pain and Performance Solutions our goal is to learn everything we can about your current pain along with any history of discomfort. We can only begin treating and relieving your chronic pain once we understand where and how your pain started.
Your trust in us and your honesty are key to our success. The only way to achieve total recovery is by getting your body healthy and working properly.
We do this by first conducting a full examination to help us determine which form of treatment is best suited to put you on your road to recovery. Because your body can compensate for pain to allow you to function during your day, the pain can move or lead to other forms of pain.
Don’t hesitate to reach out. We are here to help and will answer any questions that you may have. You can reach us at (707) 636-4404 or by filling out our online contact form.