Neck Pain - Pinched Nerve or Not?
Neck pain has been the flavour of the month at PhysioLogix and I felt that it was important to clarify some of the myths around neck pain caused by a “pinched nerve”. This is a diagnosis which gets thrown around frequently, however it is more often than not an incorrect description of why people can experience neck stiffness and moderate to severe pain for a number of days to weeks.
It is important to clarify that nerves in the neck can indeed be pinched for a variety of reasons. However, when they are the direct cause of your neck problem the accompanying symptoms can involve any combination of:
Pins and needles
Reduced dexterity of your hands
Sharp shooting pain following a line down your arm
Neck pain of course!
These types of symptoms can be debilitating and can be treated through physiotherapy. If your symptoms do not match these it is likely that the cause of your pain is from other structures in the neck. When people experienced restrictions in neck range of movement, moderate to severe pain and a clicking/catching sensation it is usually being caused by the joints in your neck which run parallel on both sides not moving as well as they should.
These small joints in your neck are called facet joints which all rotate on top of each other to allow you to move your head in all directions. These joints can stiffen for many reasons including sleeping in a poor position, turning your head too quickly causing a strain or through poor posture when sitting to name a few. If any one of these small joints stiffen and lock up it will feel like a physical block when turning your head which will restrict your range of movement and cause moderate to severe pain whilst also occasionally causing a headache.
This type of neck pain is one of the easiest to treat as all that needs to be done is to get the joints that have stiffened moving again. It may also be necessary to address any muscle tightness over the stiffened joint as they can spasm due to pain. To address these issues hands on physiotherapy is necessary to stretch out restricted joints and tight musculature. The provision of a home exercise program is also helpful to maintain gains made in range of movement during physiotherapy. Hands-on physiotherapy treatment is ideal for alleviating symptoms, however addressing the underlying causes such as poor posture and sleeping position can also prove to be beneficial to prevent this type of problem coming back in the future.