Diagnosing and Treating a Pinched Nerve in Your Neck
Just about everyone will experience a pinched nerve inthe neck at some point. This common condition can becaused by something as relatively minor as sleeping on apillow wrong or can also indicate the presence of adegenerative spine condition that has developed as aresult of years of wear and tear on the neck. If youcontinue to experience chronic neck pain or any othersimilar symptoms that you think might be a result ofnerve irritation in your cervical spine, it is extremelyimportant that you visit a doctor to diagnose the problemand help you develop a treatment regimen that will helpyou overcome your discomfort.
What is a Pinched Nerve?The brain communicates with the rest of the body by sending andreceiving motor and sensory signals through a complex infrastructureof nerves that branch off the spinal cord. The problem is that whenone of these nerves becomes impinged, irritated, or otherwiseconstricted, the regular function of that never can be interfered with,which can lead to symptoms to develop.One of the difficulties that can arise with diagnosing a pinched nerve isthat the symptoms are often experienced far away from the origin ofthe problem. When a nerve root in the spinal column, for instance,becomes irritated, the symptoms may radiate along the affected nerveinto the extremities. As a result, a pinched nerve in the neck, forexample, can cause tingling in the fingertips. This can cause theindividual to attempt to treat the symptoms in the fingers, whileneglecting the actual cause of the problem in the spinal column.
Degenerative Spine ConditionsOne of the most common causes of a pinched nerve in the neck is thedevelopment of a degenerative spine condition. As we age, our spinalanatomy naturally begins to deteriorate as a result of years of wearand tear on the spinal anatomy. This phenomenon is particularlycommon in the neck, where the burden of supporting the weight ofthe skull takes its toll. With time, the intervertebral discs that cushionand support adjacent vertebrae become worn, vertebral facet jointsthat connect the vertebrae become arthritic, muscles weaken,ligaments calcify, and other changes occur. This deterioration isentirely normal and accounts for some of the minor aches and painsand the marked loss of flexibility that most of us come to accept as anormal part of the aging process.The problem that some individuals run into, however, is that this spinaldegeneration can occasionally advance to the point that a spinal nervebecomes constricted, which can cause chronic symptoms to develop.
Treatment OptionsIn order to effectively treat a pinched nerve inthe neck, you must first understand the rootcause of the problem. A herniated disc willrequire a different course of treatment thanosteoarthritis in the spine, for example, and,the only way to confidently diagnose theproblem is to seek the attention of aphysician.Once a diagnosis has been made, the doctorwill work with the patient to develop acarefully designed treatment regimen that isintended to alleviate strain from the affectednerve. More often than not, a combination oflow-impact exercises, stretching techniques,hot/cold therapy, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs will provide the lastingrelief the patient requires.
When Surgery is an OptionWhile most people will find lasting relief from severalweeks or months of conservative treatment, for a selectsegment of the population surgical intervention isoccasionally required to overcome their chronic pain. Inthis case, there are several different types of spineprocedures that may be considered, ranging from spinalfusion surgery to less invasive endoscopic options.To learn more about what it means to have a pinchednerve in your neck, speak with your physician or spinespecialist today.
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