A pain in the neck can sometimes mean a pinched nerve. But how the heck does that happen and why? Let’s look at the condition and get some answers, then get you some help!
A pinched nerve in the neck is referred to in medical terms as “cervical radiculopathy”. When a nerve is compressed, it becomes irritated. This most commonly occurs as nerves branch out from the spinal cord and travel through the spine.
The cervical spine consists of 7 vertebrae. These support your head and are responsible for your ability to turn it and perform other motions.
When you consider that the adult human head weighs between 10 and 13 pounds, it becomes easier to understand how this delicate system can be injured. It’s also notable that the neck has less muscle than other parts of the body, which makes the cervical spine uniquely vulnerable.
The spinal column
Your spinal column houses your body’s nerve center. Consisting of the vertebrae and the discs which hold them apart, the spinal column contains and protects the spinal cord.
From this nerve center, your brain communicates with the other part of the body. To reach the rest of the body, nerve roots branch out of the spine, exiting through vertebral lacunae called “foramina”.
And it’s in the discs we find our most common source of pinched nerves in the cervical vertebrae.
Pinched nerves can occur as the result of changes in the body as we age, or due to trauma or injury. Let’s review some of the most common conditions underlying pinched nerves in the neck.
Your spinal discs hold less necessary fluid as you age. This can cause them to lose their shape. They will sometimes collapse as the result of this degenerative process, which means your vertebrae can rub together, irritating nerves due to the formation of more bone – a biological reaction by the implicated vertebrae.
Bone spurs (osteophytes) will start to form around the problem disc. This sometimes causes the foramina to narrow, leaving less space for nerve roots to exit the spinal column. This results in irritation caused by compression.
Disc herniations occur when the gel-like nucleus (center) of discs is pushed outside the protective outer coating of the disc structure.
Herniations compromise the spinal structure, provoking instability and eventually pain on the nerves they press on when under this type of pressure.
While symptoms vary in different people, Pain which radiates from the neck in the shoulder, arm and sometime, the hand, are key indications of a pinched nerve. The pain is usually experienced on one side of the body.
Pain may be accompanied by numbness and/or tingling which also radiates down the upper extremity. Muscle weakness and atypical reflexes may also result from a pinched nerve.
Pinched nerve in the neck? Get help today!
If you’re experiencing the type of pain described above, you may need treatment for a pinched nerve. Contact the spine experts at Central Texas Spine Institute for specialized help.