Pinched Nerve In The Neck: Causes, Symptoms, & How To Fix It

Learn why your nerves are strained and adopt appropriate remedies based on the symptoms.

Medically reviewed by Caroline Duncan, MD Caroline Duncan Caroline DuncanMD facebook_iconlinkedin_icon
Written by , MSc Shaheen Naser MSc Experience: 3 years
Edited by , BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma Arshiya Syeda BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma Experience: 7 years
Fact-checked by , MA (English) Dipti Sharma MA (English) Experience: 2 years
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If all those months of sitting badly for hours on end gave you the pinched nerve in your neck, it’s time to do something about it. A pinched nerve occurs when you put too much pressure on your nerves. The act of simply turning your neck or getting up from bed can cause sudden pain in your neck. Fortunately, there are a few natural treatment options you can try at home to alleviate the pain before it becomes worse and cause shoulder pain and arm pain, leading to hand numbness. In this article, we look at what is a pinched nerve, its causes, and a few tips to get rid of that pain in your neck, also known as cervicalgia.

What Is A Pinched Nerve?

A pinched nerve is the result of too much pressure applied by the surrounding bones, muscles, cartilage, or tendons on a nerve or group of nerves. This pressure causes the nerve to lose its function and might result in pain or numbness in the affected area. Neck pain is also called cervical radiculopathy and the pain experienced at the topmost part of the spine is called cervical radiculitis.

Your nerves extend all the way from the brain to the spinal cord, sending important messages back and forth. A pinched or compressed nerve may produce signals in the form of pain, and such signs should not be ignored as they may lead to hand weakness.

Signs And Symptoms Of A Pinched Nerve

Other than pain, a pinched or compressed nerve may also give rise to symptoms such as:

  • Numbness in the area
  • A sharp pain that radiates outwards
  • A tingling or pins and needles sensation
  • Weakened muscles in the affected area
  • A feeling of numb and sensationless hands or feet

These symptoms might worsen while you are asleep.

If you have a compressed nerve in your neck or arm, it may affect your elbows, hands, wrists, and even your fingers. This often leads to conditions like:

  • Peripheral neuropathyi  A medical condition that damages the nerves in the hands, arms, and feet leading to weakness and pain as a result of diabetes, infections and injuries.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Thyroid disease

Let us now look at the causes of a pinched nerve.

What Causes A Pinched Nerve In The Neck?

The pinched nerve in your neck could be due to the following:

  • An injury
  • Arthritis (cervical spondylosis and cervical disc degeneration)
  • Stress
  • Physical activities
  • Obesity

If your nerve is pinched or compressed only for a short time, it isn’t usually a cause for concern. But if it continues to be compressed for a long period, it may result in chronic pain and even result in a permanently damaged nerve.

Aleksa Georg, a blogger, battling neck pain for nine months, detailed her experience thus: “At first, it began showing up in the bed — mostly when I was laying down on one side or the other. This new irritating sensation felt just as something there was being pinched very, very [nastily]. The desire to crack this thing and get my neck mobility back to normal built up as the pain advanced and moved into my practice on the mat, and later on in my daily life as well (i).” She was later diagnosed with a displaced cervical disc.

Occupational cervical radiculopathy is also a common case these days. According to an online survey conducted with 685 orthopedic surgeons, it was found that neck pain and cervical radiculopathy are common among orthopedic surgeons. Of the 685 responses, 59.3% reported neck pain, and 22.8% reported cervical radiculopathy.

The following conditions might increase your risk of experiencing a pinched nerve:

  • Rheumatoid arthritisi  A chronic inflammatory disorder that triggers the immune system to attack its own healthy tissues in the joints of hands and feet causing pain and inflammation. (cervical osteoarthritis)
  • Cervical herniated disc
  • Thyroid disease
  • Cervical stenosis
  • Bone spursi  Also known as osteophyte, these are bony projections or lumps that form on bones around the spine and in joints as a response to arthritis and old age. that occur as a result of trauma or other medical conditions
  • Sexual activity, which increases a woman’s risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome (1). This, in turn, increases the risk of getting a pinched nerve.

Hence, to avoid damaging your nerve permanently, it is important to attend to it immediately. And we have the best solutions to address this problem. Simply follow the methods given below to treat your pinched nerve at home.

How To Fix A Pinched Nerve In The Neck

  1. Hot Or Cold Compress
  2. Massage With Warm Oil
  3. Essential Oils
  4. Ginger
  5. Vitamins
  6. Turmeric
  7. Epsom Salt
  8. Castor Oil
  9. Exercises
  10. Yoga
  11. Acupressure

1. Hot Or Cold Compress

Hot or cold compress to fix a pinched nerve in the neck
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need
  • Ice cubes
  • A clean washcloth
  • A sealable plastic bag
  • A hot compress
What You Have To Do
  1. Take some ice cubes and put them in a sealable plastic bag.
  2. Wrap the plastic bag in a clean washcloth and apply it to your neck.
  3. Leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat multiple times a day.
  4. Alternatively, you can also apply a hot compress to your neck.
How Often You Should Do This

You may do this every hour or two until there is a notable decrease in your pain.

Why This Works

While a cold compress can help relieve the pain and inflammation, a hot compress can relax the muscles around the pinched nerve (2). It can also improve the blood circulation to your neck, thus aiding faster healing of the affected nerve.

2. Massage With Warm Oil

Massage with warm oil to fix pinched nerve in the neck
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need

1/2 cup of coconut or mustard oil

What You Have To Do
  1. Take some coconut or mustard oil and warm it a little.
  2. Apply it to your neck and massage gently for 10 to 15 minutes.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this at least twice daily.

Why This Works

Massaging the affected area activates certain pressure points that help relax your muscles and increase blood supply to the neck to reduce cervical nerve compression. A warm oil massage can also reduce the pain, and hence, it is one of the best and most effective options for treating a pinched nerve in the neck (3).

3. Essential Oils

a. Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil to fix pinched nerve in the neck
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need
  • 2-3 drops of peppermint oil
  • Coconut or jojoba oil (optional)
What You Have To Do
  1. Take some drops of peppermint oil on your fingers and apply it to your neck.
  2. Massage for a few minutes until the oil is absorbed completely by your skin.
  3. If you have sensitive skin, you can mix the essential oil with any carrier oil before applying it.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this twice daily.

Why This Works

Peppermint oil is widely used as a decongestant and also to relieve pain, given its wonderful analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties (4). It is also antispasmodic and can help in relaxing the muscles to relieve neck muscle spasms. These properties of peppermint oil can help in the treatment of the pinched nerve in your neck.

b. Lavender Oil

Lavender oil to fix pinched nerve in the neck
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need
  • 2-3 drops of lavender oil
  • Coconut or olive oil (optional)
What You Have To Do
  1. Take a few drops of lavender oil and apply it directly to the affected area.
  2. If you have sensitive skin, mix the essential oil with a carrier oil of your choice.
  3. Massage gently for 2 to 3 minutes until your skin absorbs the oil completely.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 2 to 3 times daily.

Why This Works

While the pleasant aroma of lavender oil improves your sleep and helps you get ample amounts of rest, its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties help in reducing the pain and inflammation that are caused due to a pinched nerve (5), (6).

4. Ginger

Ginger to fix pinched nerve in the neck
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need
  • 1 inch of sliced ginger
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • Honey
What You Have To Do
  1. Add an inch of ginger to a cup of hot water.
  2. Allow it to steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Strain and add a little honey to the ginger tea.
  4. Consume it before it turns cold.
How Often You Should Do This

You must drink ginger tea 2 to 3 times daily.

Why This Works

Ginger is an herb that is quite popular for its pain-relieving properties (7). It possesses anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that can help relieve chronic pain and inflammation that occur due to the pinched nerve (8).

5. Vitamins

Vitamins to fix pinched nerve in the neck
Image: Shutterstock

A deficiency in vitamins B6, B12, C, and E may increase your chance of developing a pinched nerve. Hence, it is important to get the required dose of these vitamins every day to aid faster healing. Increase your intake of these vitamins by consuming foods rich in them like citrus fruits, green vegetables, almonds, avocados, seafood, and poultry. All these vitamins have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that can help lessen the pain (9), (10), (11), (12).

6. Turmeric

Turmeric to fix pinched nerve in the neck
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1 glass of milk
  • Honey (optional)
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a teaspoon of turmeric powder to a glass of hot milk and stir well.
  2. Allow it to cool a little and add some honey to it.
  3. Drink this mixture.
How Often You Should Do This

Drink turmeric milk 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Works

The curcumin in turmeric possesses anti-inflammatory and healing properties that can help treat the pinched nerve (13), (14).

7. Epsom Salt

Epsom salt to fix pinched nerve in the neck
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need
  • 1 cup of Epsom salt
  • Bathwater
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a cup of Epsom salt to your bathwater.
  2. Soak in the bath for 15 to 20 minutes and relax.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 2 to 3 times a week for effective results.

Why This Works

Epsom salt contains magnesium, which is widely used to treat pain and inflammation due to its anti-inflammatory properties (15). An Epsom salt bath can help your skin absorb more magnesium and relieve the symptoms of pain and inflammation caused by the pinched nerve in your neck (16).

8. Castor Oil

Castor oil to fix pinched nerve in the neck
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need
  • 1/2-1 tablespoon of castor oil
  • A warm compress
What You Have To Do
  1. Take sufficient amount of castor oil in your hands and apply it to the affected area.
  2. Gently massage the neck for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Apply a warm compress to the area and leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 2 to 3 times a day until your pain begins to subside.

Why This Works

Castor oil is well-known for its potential anti-inflammatory and relaxing properties. This is mainly due to the presence of ricinoleic acid in it. Therefore, a quick massage or application of a castor oil pack is one of your best bets to deal with pinched nerves (17).

9. Exercises

Exercises to fix pinched nerve in the neck
Image: Shutterstock
What You Have To Do
  1. Gently rotate your neck in the clockwise and anticlockwise directions.
  2. You can also move your neck back and forth and side to side to relax the nerve muscles in your neck.
Repetitions

15 to 20

How They Help

Doing a few stretches is all it takes to relax the stiff muscles in the neck and relieve the pain that a pinched nerve causes (18).

protip_icon Quick Tip
Alternative exercises such as side bends, shoulder rolls and shrugs, median nerve sliding, and median nerve rocking can help in easing a pinched nerve and relieve neck stiffness and pain.

10. Yoga

Yoga to fix pinched nerve in the neck
Image: Shutterstock
What You Have To Do

Practise yoga poses like the Cobra Pose, Extended Side Angle Pose, Fish Pose, and Downward Dog Pose.

Duration

Hold each pose for 10 to 15 seconds.

Why This Works

Yoga can help stretch the muscles in the neck, thereby inducing relaxation and speeding up the healing process of the pinched nerve and might help relieve pain due to cervical arthritis. It also improves blood supply to the affected nerve, thus aiding its recovery (19).

11. Acupressure

Acupressure to fix pinched nerve in the neck
Image: Shutterstock

You might also want to consider acupressure to help treat the pinched nerve in your neck along with cervical disc protrusion, which involves applying pressure to certain points in your body. It not only relieves pain but might also help the nerve regain its lost function (20).

protip_icon Quick Tip
Walking for 10 minutes for every hour of sitting can also help ease a pinched nerve in the neck. Your ears must be in level with your shoulders, with loose jaws and a neutral head position while walking.

Once you have successfully treated the pinched nerve in your neck using the remedies described above, you can take the following precautions to avoid its recurrence.

Preventive Tips

  • Maintain good body posture.
  • Avoid staying in one position for a long time.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and follow a healthy diet.

Keep reading to learn other treatment methods you may consider to manage a pinched nerve.

Other Treatment Options For A Pinched Nerve In The Neck

The doctor may recommend the following treatment courses to improve your condition:

  • Resting allows the neck to heal and reduces strain.
  • Physical therapy targets pain areas, strengthens muscles, and enhances flexibility.
  • A soft collar provides neck support, restricting unnecessary movement.
  • Surgery relieves nerve pressure in persistent or severe cases.
  • Medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or oral corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation and provide pain relief.
  • Doctors may inject corticosteroids into the affected area to manage more severe cases.
  • Surgical interventions like cervical decompression or discectomy help relieve nerve compression for persistent or severe symptoms.

Always consult a healthcare expert for a proper diagnosis and tailored treatment approach. Additionally, you may follow some sitting and sleeping positions to speed up your recovery. Check them out in the next section!

Best Sleeping And Sitting Positions For A Pinched Nerve In The Neck

  • Keep pillows under your neck and knees to keep your backbone as straight as possible.
  • A proper sitting position can also take a lot of pressure off your back. Sit on chairs that support your back. Avoid sitting for too long and take frequent breaks if you are required to sit at a stretch.

Try these remedies and methods to reduce the swelling and pain. However, if your problem persists, you need to consult a doctor immediately.

When To Visit A Doctor

You need to visit a doctor if you experience these symptoms:

  • Persistent and unbearable pain despite treatment
  • Acute focal weakness (when one of your legs is unable to carry your weight)
  • A profound loss of sensation in any of your body parts
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

Infographic: 5 Ways To Fix A Pinched Nerve In The Neck

Stress, excess physical activity, or sitting badly for long hours can cause a pinched nerve in the neck. It not only causes a sharp pain that causes difficulty in moving your neck but also ends up disrupting your daily activities. The good news is you can treat this issue with simple remedies at home. Check out the following infographic to know more!

5 ways to fix a pinched nerve in the neck (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

A pinched nerve in the neck may result from long hours of sitting in bad posture, obesity, stress, physical activities, arthritis, or injury. Using a cold or hot compress or massaging with warm oil relieves the cervical spine pain. Also, essential oils, vitamins, turmeric, Epsom salt, ginger, and castor oil can manage a pinched nerve in the neck. Yoga, exercise, and acupressure relieve the pain effectively. In addition, following a few preventive tips like maintaining a good posture, exercising regularly, following a helathy diet, and changing your sitting position frequently reduces the risk of a pinched nerve.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a pinched nerve take to heal?

A pinched nerve may take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to heal completely.

Can a chiropractor fix a pinched nerve?

Chiropractic treatments usually help in taking pressure off the pinched nerve, which, in turn, provides relief from the painful symptoms.

Is surgery necessary for a pinched nerve in the neck?

Surgery for a pinched nerve is the last resort when other non-surgical treatments do not show any improvement. Mostly pinched nerve symptoms suffice with rest, hot press, and medication.

Can physical therapy help with a pinched nerve in the neck?

Physical therapy can indeed assist with a pinched neck nerve. Physical therapy can ease discomfort, increase the range of motion, and stop additional injury by bolstering the muscles surrounding the injured location.

Can a pinched nerve in the neck lead to permanent nerve damage?

A pinched nerve in the neck can potentially lead to permanent nerve damage if left untreated for an extended period of time (17).

Key Takeaways

  • Applying too much pressure on the nerves may result in numbness and sharp pain.
  • A few causes of a pinched nerve are physical activity, arthritis, injury, and stress.
  • Simple remedies like hot or cold compress, acupressure, yoga, and using essential oils may treat this issue.
  • Good posture, a healthy diet, and exercising regularly can help prevent pinched nerves.

Learn about the symptoms and treatments for a pinched nerve in the neck. Watch this video to identify the issue as well as tips on how to relieve the pain and discomfort.

Personal Experience: Source

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Caroline C. Duncan graduated from the Medical University of South Carolina in May of 2017, where her interests were primarily psychiatric, neurologic, and pharmacologic in nature. She served on the editorial board for the school’s literary and artistic publication Humanitas and was editor-in-chief in her fourth and final year. She's a native of the Carolinas and earned an A.B. degree...read full bio

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