A pinched nerve in the neck and shoulder can make for a very painful few days or weeks. Sometimes they go away on their own but are likely to come back unless their cause is discovered and dealt with appropriately. Read on for relief tips, symptoms, treatment options, and best practices for a pinched nerve in the neck or shoulder.
Often radiating pain down the arm, back, or shoulder, a pinched nerve can cause discomfort, pain, and numbness. Determining if a pinched nerve is causing you pain is the first step toward recovery. Once you know what it is, you have several options for quick relief.
Pinched Nerve in Neck and Shoulder Symptoms
Without a physical exam by a medical professional, it can be hard to know if you have a pinched nerve or if something else is causing you pain. There are, however, some signs and symptoms to look out for that can indicate a pinched nerve in the neck or shoulder.
What Does a Pinched Nerve in Neck Feel Like?
- Sharp pain in the neck and possibly down the shoulder and arm.
- Numbness in the neck, shoulder, or arm.
- Pain when you crane your neck or turn your head.
- Headaches at the back of the head.
What Does a Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Feel Like?
- Usually only occurs in one shoulder.
- Characterized by sharp pain, as opposed to dull pain or an ache.
- May be accompanied by neck pain and headaches.
- Turning your head or moving your arm may cause the pain to intensify.
- May cause numbness and weakness in the shoulder.
- Pain may extend down your arm.
As you can see, a pinched nerve in the shoulder may cause pain in the neck area and vice versa. This is because nerves don’t necessarily hurt just where they are irritated or pinched. They often send pain along much of the nerve, making it hard to tell where the affected area is. Luckily, treatments are similar for a pinched nerve in the neck and shoulder. One thing is sure, doing nothing about a pinched nerve is never the right course of action.
How to Release a Pinched Nerve in Neck and Shoulder?
The ideal treatment will vary depending on how bad your pain is and how long it has been happening. If you experience severe, sudden pain in the neck or shoulder, especially with other symptoms like difficulty breathing, dizziness, confusion, or loss of vision, seek immediate medical help.
Otherwise, you can try the following for pinched nerve relief.
1) Take it easy
Sometimes all it takes to get rid of a pinched nerve is a bit of rest. Try to take it easy (no heavy lifting, staring at a computer all day, or vigorous exercise). 24 to 48 hours usually does the trick.
2) Ice therapy
Try applying an ice pack to the affected area for 20 minutes once every hour. This can help reduce pain and swelling. Make sure to put a protective cloth between your skin and the ice pack!
3) Mind your posture
Sometimes poor posture could be putting pressure on the nerve. Try to maintain proper posture (shoulder back, chin level with the ground, back straight) to see if it helps.
For temporary relief, you can take the recommended dosage of an over-the-counter pain reliever like Ibuprofen.
5) Chiropractic Massage
A chiropractic massage for a pinched nerve in the shoulder and neck is one way to relieve pain and help treat the issue. When directed by a chiropractor, the massage therapist can target the areas around the pinched nerve to help release the pressure that’s causing you pain.
Massage has also been shown to help treat a pinched nerve causing pain in the neck and shoulder. It’s also excellent for stress relief and increasing your overall well-being.
6) Exercises and Stretches
There are several exercises and stretches you can do to reduce pinched nerve pain in the neck and shoulders. Here are a few.
a. Chin Tucks
- Place the tips of the fingers of both hands on your chin.
- Gently push your chin back as far as is comfortable. You should feel the stretch in the back of your neck.
- Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Release.
- Repeat 5 to 8 times.
b. Shoulder Rolls
- Gently lift your shoulders up and then circle them back and down in a rolling motion.
- Repeat 8 to 10 times.
- Reverse direction and repeat another 8 to 10 times.
c. Head Turns
- This exercise is done while sitting or standing up straight and maintaining a straight neck (chin parallel to the floor and head over shoulders).
- Slowly turn your head left. Hold the position for 10 seconds.
- Gently return your head to center.
- Slowly turn your head to the right. Hold position for 10 seconds.
- Return your head to center.
- Tuck your chin and look down, stretching the back of your neck. Hold for 10 seconds.
- Return to center.
- Slowly tilt your head back to look up. Hold for 10 seconds.
- Return to center.
- Repeat the process 5 times.
Can a Chiropractor Fix a Pinched Nerve in Shoulder and Neck?
If it hurts to perform any of the exercises listed above, or your nerve pain doesn’t get any better, you may consider seeing a chiropractor. A doctor of chiropractic can absolutely help fix a pinched nerve. In fact, chiropractic care has been shown to be effective in treating pinched nerves in the neck and lumbar spine.
Since the central nervous system travels along the spine, where nerves branch out into the body, it’s not uncommon for a bulging or herniated disc to cause a pinched nerve in the neck. A chiropractic adjustment can help relieve the pressure on the disc, therefore relieving the pressure on the nerve, as well. Chiropractic care is also effective in preventing future nerve problems.
Lifestyle Tips for Preventing a Pinched Nerve
While a pinched nerve may be the result of an injury or trauma, that is not usually the case. Most often, pinched nerves are caused by things that we do habitually. As such, here are some lifestyle tips to help keep you from getting a pinched nerve.
1. Avoid straining your neck and back.
Overdoing it in sports like tennis, football, baseball, or weightlifting can cause a pinched nerve.
2. Get adequate sleep.
Sleep is essential to a healthy body.
3. Practice proper posture.
Sitting at a desk all day with a slumped neck and shoulders is asking for a pinched nerve. Make sure your workspace is ergonomic and try not to crane your head down when you’re on your phone.
4. Stretch and exercise regularly.
Yoga is perhaps the best exercise you can do for your body. The smooth, fluid movements mean that it’s hard to overdo yoga. Even if you do it every day.
5. Lift things the right way.
When lifting heavy objects, make sure to keep your spine neutral and lift with your legs. Avoid lifting heavy things if you’re experiencing any nerve pain.