Is your pinched nerve a pain in the neck?

woman neck shoulderIt starts out as a twinge — something that’s annoying but easily ignorable. Slowly over time, it escalates to more than a slight pinch to be full-fledged neck or back pain. Somehow you’ve managed to find yourself with a pinched nerve and dealing with severe pain.

More than 80 percent of Americans have suffered, or will suffer, from neck or back pain during their life. It’s a lot easier to find yourself with a pinched nerve than you would think. A pinched nerve is simply pressure applied to a nerve. This can happen if you overexert yourself and put too much strain on your back or if you experience a trauma such as a sporting or car accident or a hard fall.

If you have a pinched nerve in your neck or back, you may notice some of these symptoms:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Shooting pains in your neck, shoulders, arms, fingers, legs or buttocks

What to do

Many times the symptoms associated with a pinched nerve will resolve with some conservative, nonsurgical treatments. Consider trying these treatments:

  • Low-impact exercises. These types of exercises do not put a lot of pressure on the spine and help to increase your activity level, which may help relieve some of your pain. Try walking, swimming, biking, yoga or Pilates. Both yoga and Pilates are excellent forms of exercise as they strengthen your core muscles, helping to reduce back pain.
  • Medications. If you are suffering from pain, try some over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen or naproxen. These medications help relieve inflammation that may cause pain.
  • Heat or ice. Both heat and ice can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain — especially after a long day. Alternate heat and ice every 2 to 4 hours as needed to help ease pain.
  • Eat healthy. Making sure that your diet is filled with healthy nutrients is a key component in helping beat back pain. A healthy diet helps prevent inflammation, which can ease pain. If you are overweight, focus on shedding some pounds to help relieve the strain from your spine.

If your pain has not eased after several weeks, you should make an appointment with your physician. He or she may recommend that you get an X-ray or MRI to help determine what is causing your pain. Your physician will help you formulate a plan to combat your pain.

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