A pinched nerve in the neck, also known as cervical radiculopathy, occurs when a nerve in the neck or upper back is inflamed or damaged where it branches out from the spinal cord. This results in changes in the nerve’s neurological functions and can include symptoms such as:
- pain in the neck
- pain radiating down the shoulder, upper back or arm
- weakness or numbness in the muscles in the shoulder, arm or hand
- loss of sensation or tingling “pins and needles” in the hand and fingers
- altered reflexes in your arm and hand
Cervical radiculopathy can be caused by degenerative changes associated with the normal process of ageing, such as arthritis or spondylosis.
A pinched nerve can also occur from a herniated or ruptured disc due to injury. Discs are the cushions between the bones (vertebrae) that form the spine. When a disc herniates, the jelly-like substance in the centre of the disc bulges into the spinal canal. This can press or irritate the sensitive nerve root, causing inflammation of the nerve and some or all associated symptoms of cervical radiculopathy.
Even those with minor symptoms from a pinched nerve could benefit from being assessed by a physiotherapist. Treatments, such as postural corrections and exercise, could help improve the symptoms and prevent them from returning. For persons whose symptoms persist, relief can be gained through non-surgical treatments such as physiotherapy.
Physiotherapy employs the use of specific exercises and techniques to help relieve pain, strengthen the neck muscles, and improve the range of motion. Some of these techniques include:
Neuromuscular re-education involves using techniques and exercises to help retrain muscles and nerves to communicate with the brain to improve movement, coordination, strength and functionality.
Stretching and strengthening exercises can help to loosen the tension in over-used muscles and strengthen supporting muscles in the neck. This helps to alleviate the pressure on the nerve, improve mobility and restore normal daily functions. The exercises can include chin tucks, shoulder shrugs and rolls, neural flossing, and neck stretches.
A physiotherapist can perform manual or mechanical cervical traction to stretch the cervical vertebrae and muscles to reduce the pressure on the nerve and relieve pain.
Soft tissue/muscular release
Therapeutic massage interventions can help to reduce physical tension in the muscles, increase circulation and improve flexibility to ease pain. Massage therapy also promotes healing and recovery.
Electrical stimulation is used in physiotherapy to reduce inflammation, improve muscle function, and decrease pain or spasms. Electrodes are applied to the injured site, and depending on the treatment and severity of your symptoms, your therapist will calibrate the device to apply electrical impulses to the area.
Ultrasound therapy uses energy to help increase blood flow, speed cellular processes and promote healing. Your physical therapist will apply a small amount of ultrasound gel, sometimes mixed with anti-inflammatory medication, to the injured area. An ultrasound transducer is then applied to the body in a circular motion to transmit ultrasonic waves to the inflamed or injured area.
Acupuncture and dry needling
Many physiotherapists use acupuncture and dry needling in their practice. Both are therapeutic treatments in which thin needles are inserted into different parts of the body to provide relief from a range of conditions, including a pinched nerve.
Physiotherapy in North Vancouver and Langley
Are you experiencing neck pain, weakness or numbness in your shoulders and arms, hands or fingers? You may be suffering from a pinched nerve in your neck. We can help at Movéo Sport & Rehabilitation Centre.
At our Langley and North Vancouver physiotherapy clinics, you will find a team of certified physiotherapists committed to individualized client care. We understand that each patient is unique and will tailor treatment options to help facilitate your recovery.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment for physiotherapy in North Vancouver or Langley. Let us help relieve your discomfort and help you get back to optimal health.