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When a Pinched Nerve is a Pain in the Neck

We often hear the term “pain in the neck” to describe a variety of frustrations. To say that neck pain is a pain in the neck is both playful and a start reality. When persistent aching or tension is experienced, it may be difficult to do certain activities. When a pinched nerve in the neck causes shooting pain through the shoulder or arm, it may be difficult to not wonder if something is very wrong. It may calm your thoughts to know that neck pain is quite common and that a pinched nerve is often to blame. In many cases, this problem can be handled conservatively; meaning, without surgery. However, it is important to see a doctor for neck pain that persists more than a few weeks or recurs often. Without proper care, the structural problem causing pain could get worse.

What is a Pinched Nerve in Neck?

A pinched nerve in the neck is referred to as cervical radiculopathy. The seven vertebra and discs in the neck make up the cervical spine. This short spinal segment is responsible for supporting the weight of the head (which is comparable to a bowling ball). The movement of the cervical spine allows us to look up and down and from side to side. To say that this part of the spine is important is an understatement. To have cervical radiculopathy means that one or more of the nerves that exit the narrow canals of the spinal column is meeting some type of obstruction.

Common causes of a pinched nerve in the neck include:

Disc Degeneration

One of the most common reasons for neck and back pain is the breakdown of spinal discs. These structures are the shock absorbers of the spine. There is a disc between each set of bones from the tailbone to the skull. They are made of cartilage, connective tissue, and a gel-like center. Disc degeneration can occur when there is a decrease in moisture and nourishment to this part of the body. Discs that become dry become rigid and can fray at the outer layer of tissue. In severe cases, this can lead to bone spurs as the space between two vertebra decreases.

Herniated Disc

Herniated discs, or bulging discs, are different than those that are wearing down. A herniated disc may result from an injury or from degeneration. In this instance, the inner gel-like fluid in the disc leads out through a small tear. Pain results from irritation in a nerve that comes into contact with the leaking fluid.

A pinched nerve in the neck can cause a wide range of problems. These range from localized, chronic pain to tingling and weakness in the arm or hand. Symptoms may occur in a small joint, but can have a big impact on comfort and quality of life. Care from a specialist can help. Dr. Lipani is proud to serve patients in areas including Somerset, Morristown, and Hamilton. To schedule a visit, contact an office near you.

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