What To Do For A Pinched Nerve In Neck? 11 Treatments – Pain Doctor (2023)

Neck pain is very common, so it’s unsurprising that there are many reasons why your neck might be hurting you. If you’re unsure of why you’re experiencing neck pain, check outthis article for more general information on neck pain causes and solutions. In this post, we focus on one particular neck pain cause: a pinched nerve. What exactly is a pinched nerve in the neck, and what can you do about it? Here’s what you should know about pinched nerve in neck causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

What is a pinched nerve in the neck?

Pinched nerves happen when other parts of the body, such as bone and cartilage, place too much pressure on, or “pinch,” nearby nerves. They can occur just about anywhere and are sometimes caused by something serious, such as arthritis, a herniated disc, or a traumatic injury. In other cases, pinched nerves can be traced back to something much simpler, like poor posture or repetitive movements.

Neck pain can be severe, exhausting, and even scary. But it’s also very treatable. Whatever is causing your pinched nerve, there are many ways to ease the symptoms. You can even do some of them at home! We’ll go through the most common treatments later in this article.

First, however, you should confirm that your neck pain is the result of a pinched nerve. In the next section, we’ll review the symptoms of a pinched nerve so that you have a better idea of whether or not it’s the source of your pain. But remember: only a physician can diagnose you with a medical condition. Seeing your doctor is the only way to know for sure if you have a pinched nerve in the neck.

What does a pinched nerve in the neck feel like?

Pinched nerve in neck symptoms can be divided into three main categories: numbness, pain, and muscle weakness.

Numbness from a pinched nerve may manifest as a loss of feeling or a strange tingling. The tingling is often described as a pins and needles sensation, like the affected area has “gone to sleep.” Depending on how long your pinched nerve has gone untreated, the tingling may last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, or it may be ongoing.

Pain from a pinched nerve can take different forms. Some people experience a burning or stabbing sensation, while others describe it as more of an ache. Muscle weakness simply means that the affected area tires more easily, and that it can’t support your usual activities the way it used to.

Some pinched nerves heal on their own with proper treatment, but they can become chronic.

Chronic pinched nerves occur when the pressure on the nerve remains constant or gets worse over time. This can lead to permanent nerve damage. If your pinched nerve in neck symptoms last for more than a few days, consult a doctor. Pain is not normal and, in the case of a pinched nerve, may lead to chronic pain and worsening symptoms if it is not treated.

What to do for a pinched nerve in neck: 11 treatments

If you suspect you have a pinched nerve in the neck, your first step should be to see your doctor right away. They will make an official diagnosis and help you figure out which treatment options are best for you. Below is a list of pinched nerve in neck treatments that your doctor might recommend.

(Video) Decompress Your Neck Pinched Nerve! Dr. Mandell

Experiment with at-home treatments

There are several ways to treat pinched nerve pain at home. Some of them are intuitive, such as finding and remaining in a comfortable position for as long as possible. Others might require a little more effort, such as maintaining a healthy weight or learning self-massage techniques designed to reduce neck pain.

Still others involve monetary investment, such as buying a standing desk so you spend less time hunched over a computer. Experiment with at-home treatments until you find the ones that work for you. Always talk to your doctor before starting any treatment that makes significant alterations to your diet or exercise routine.

Make sleeping adjustments and buy pillows

Getting a good night’s sleep with a pinched nerve can be difficult, but it’s an important part of the treatment process. The way you sleep at night has a big impact on how your neck feels the next day. Try to find a comfortable sleeping position and stick with it. Sleeping on your back and using a supportive pillow are good places to start.

If your pillow isn’t supportive enough or is actively causing you pain, you may want to consider purchasing a new one. Pillows for neck pain are specially designed to ease neck pain not just while you sleep, but in other situations that might put strain on your neck, such as long car rides.

You might also want to take a pain reliever or do some stretches right before bed; this way, their beneficial effects will last you through the night. We’ll talk more about both of these treatment options in later sections.

What To Do For A Pinched Nerve In Neck? 11 Treatments – Pain Doctor (1)

Try neck stretches for pinched nerve

There are many different neck stretches designed to mitigate neck pain. After getting the go-ahead from your doctor, do a little research on neck stretches and try as many as you can. Pace yourself: don’t try them all at once, especially if you’re not used to stretching that area. If any of the stretches cause you pain or discomfort, stop immediately and take a break.

Once you’ve found the stretches that work best for you, you can use them as both a preventative and a pain-relieving measure. Take a little time every day to go through your stretches, and then also do them whenever your neck is bothering you.

Do neck exercises

In addition to stretches, neck exercises may be beneficial. You don’t need to go to the gym for this. There are plenty of neck exercises you can do at home, no special equipment required.

First, consult your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Then, like with the stretches, set up a time to do your exercises and stick with it. As you exercise, pay attention to how your neck feels. The minute you feel uncomfortable, stop. You may tire easily in the beginning, but the more you exercise, the stronger—and, hopefully, less painful—your neck will become.

(Video) Doctor explains treatments for pinched nerves

While exercise can help alleviate pain, be cautious about which exercises you choose to do. As we mentioned earlier, pinched nerves can be caused by repetitive movements. So doing the same exercise repeatedly, or doing an exercise where you have to move your neck the same way over and over again, could cause more pain in the long run.

Use hot and cold therapy

Using heat and/or cold is one of the more affordable ways to relieve pain. They both can be applied in a variety of ways. A hot or cold towel might do the trick. You may also choose to spend some time under a hot shower or apply a bag of frozen vegetables to your neck.

Always be careful when using heat and/or cold therapy. To avoid burns, limit the amount of time you keep the source of heat or cold on your heck, and don’t let it get excessively hot or excessively cold. If you’re using a store-bought treatment, read and follow all of the instructions.

Visit a physical therapist

Physical therapy is a broad term that encompasses numerous treatment methods, including but not limited to, many mentioned in this article, such as heat/cold therapy, stretches, exercises, and chiropractic.

Receiving guidance from a professional, however, can be more helpful and more comforting than going it alone. A physical therapist is specially trained to assess your needs and design a treatment program just for you. They will also suggest lifestyle changes to prevent and mitigate neck pain in the future.

Go to a chiropractor

Chiropractors specialize in treating all manner of back and neck ailments. They can use spinal manipulation tip to ease your pain and, similar to a physical therapist, give you advice on what you can do at home to help your neck feel better.

A word of warning: chiropractic care may not be safe for everyone, so talk to your doctor before making an appointment.

Try acupuncture

This ancient therapy originated in China thousands of years ago. It involves inserting thin needles under the skin in specific places along the body. Stimulating those places can supposedly treat a variety of conditions, including pain, but whether or not acupuncture truly works that way is still under debate.

Some studies found it to be an effective treatment, but others suggest that many of acupuncture’s perceived benefits owe more to a placebo effect than to the acupuncture itself.

Regardless, acupuncture is generally considered safe, as long as the acupuncturist is reputable, experienced, and uses clean needles. If you decide acupuncture is the way to go, you will want to do your due diligence before selecting an acupuncturist. Make sure that whomever you visit is properly licensed and registered with your state. You can also talk to your doctor for recommendations.

(Video) INSTANT RELIEF - How to Treat A Pinched Neck Nerve - Physical Therapy Exercises

Take medication

You may have already tried over-the-counter pain relievers before ever realizing that you had a pinched nerve. If you find those helpful, talk to your doctor about continuing to take them.

If they aren’t helping, talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for something stronger. For example, corticosteroids may be able to alleviate pain that’s too severe for over-the-counter medications to handle. They can be taken orally or injected, as we’ll discuss in the next section.

Try neck pain injections and surgery

You might be anxious about the idea of needing injections or surgery. The good news is that you probably won’t need either of them! Both of these treatments are an absolute last resort. Only if all of the other treatments in this list are unsuccessful should you even consider surgery or injections.

Corticosteroid injections are used to reduce inflammation, which in turn can relieve pressure and pain in the affected area. They can be an especially important treatment to do alongside physical therapy or chiropractic care. While you manage the pain, you can go through strengthening and stretching routines to resolve the underlying cause of pain.

Note that these injections are minimally-invasive, but they still have potential side effects. This is especially true when it comes to long-term use.

If all other treatment methods fail, some pinched nerves will require surgery. In that case, a surgeon will go in and shift whichever body part is pressing on your nerve to a better, less painful position. But again, surgery is only used in “worst-case scenario” situations. You don’t have to even begin worrying about that until you’ve exhausted all of the other, less invasive treatment approaches.

Get help with your neck pain

Need some more guidance on how to deal with your pinched nerve in neck pain?You can find a pain doctor in your area by clicking the button below or looking for one in your area by using the tips here: http://paindoctor.com/pain-management-doctors/. A pain specialist can help you navigate the various causes of and treatments for your pinched nerves.

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(Video) How to Overcome Cervical Pinched Nerve & Radiculopathy (Don't Panic) - Dr. Alan Mandell, DC


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(Video) How to Fix a Pinched Nerve in the Neck | Dr. Jon Saunders


Can a doctor do anything for a pinched nerve in the neck? ›

Surgery. If the pinched nerve doesn't improve after several weeks to a few months with conservative treatments, your doctor may recommend surgery to take pressure off the nerve.

What is the best painkiller for pinched nerve in neck? ›

Your doctor will likely recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).

How do doctors repair a pinched nerve? ›

Endoscopic Foraminoplasty. Endoscopic foraminoplasty is the least invasive spinal surgeries available to treat a pinched nerve in the neck or back that decompresses and frees a nerve. Foraminoplasty is a surgical procedure that enlarges the surrounding area of the spinal bone located near a pinched nerve.

How do you get immediate relief from a pinched nerve in your neck? ›

If you have mild symptoms, you might find relief from:
  1. rest.
  2. soft cervical collar.
  3. hot or cold compress.
  4. practicing good posture.
  5. nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  6. acupuncture.
  7. massage.
  8. yoga.
Dec 10, 2018

Can urgent care do anything for a pinched nerve? ›

Treatment Options

At Premier Urgent Care, patients diagnosed with a pinched nerve can experience lasting pain relief and begin their recovery after treatment with injections and pain management techniques.

What kind of doctor fixes pinched nerves? ›

If your primary care doctor is unable to diagnose the pinched nerve, you may need to see a neurologist or orthopedist.

What is the best muscle relaxer for pinched nerve? ›

Common muscle relaxants include Flexeril, Soma, Baclofen, Robaxin, and Tizanidine. Nerve membrane stabilizers are another class of medications often used to treat the numbness, tingling, shooting, stabbing, or radiating pain associated with a pinched nerve.

Will muscle relaxers help a pinched nerve? ›

Nonsurgical Treatments

You can often get relief from your symptoms by adding medication to your treatment for a pinched nerve in the neck. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help the pain caused by nerve inflammation. Over-the-counter muscle relaxers can also provide a certain degree of relief as well.

How severe is a pinched nerve in the neck? ›

If a nerve is pinched for only a short time, there's usually no permanent damage. Once the pressure is relieved, nerve function returns to normal. However, if the pressure continues, chronic pain and permanent nerve damage can occur.

When is surgery needed for pinched nerve in neck? ›

When symptoms of cervical radiculopathy persist or worsen despite nonsurgical treatment, your doctor may recommend surgery. The primary goal of surgery is to relieve your symptoms by decompressing, or relieving pressure on, the compressed nerves in your neck.

When do you need surgery for a pinched nerve? ›

Surgery for a pinched nerve may be required once the symptoms caused by pressure on the spinal nerves have become chronic or severe. The Bonati Spine Procedures utilize patented instruments and techniques to treat chronic pain caused by pinched nerves in the lumbar, cervical or thoracic spine.

Will an MRI show a pinched nerve? ›

MRIs create images using a radiofrequency magnetic field, a technique that clearly shows pinched nerves, disc disease, and inflammation or infections in the spinal tissues. MRI is usually the preferred imaging for pinched nerves.

What does severe nerve pain feel like? ›

Nerve pain often feels like a shooting, stabbing or burning sensation. Sometimes it can feel as sharp and sudden as an electric shock. You may be very sensitive to touch or cold. You may also experience pain as a result of touch that would not normally be painful, such as something lightly brushing your skin.

Can I go to ER for pinched nerve in neck? ›

Patients who seriously injure their necks should call an ambulance or have someone drive them to the emergency room. However, if the pain is mild to moderate, they can visit an emergency room for help. The pain could be due to a soft tissue injury, such as a muscle sprain or strain.

Do people go to the ER for pinched nerve? ›

Call your healthcare provider right away or go to the emergency room if you have: Sudden onset of numbness, weakness, or paralysis of an arm or leg that does not go away.

Should I go to ER for pinched nerve in neck? ›

If your pain from what you think is a pinched nerve lasts more than a couple of days, you should seek medical attention. Your pain is getting worse, despite trying the self-care treatment options mentioned above.

How long before a pinched nerve becomes permanent damage? ›

When left untreated, pinched nerves may lead to peripheral neuropathy. This may develop over the course of several weeks or years.

Is it better to see a doctor or chiropractor for pinched nerve? ›

In the case of pinched nerves caused by improper ergonomics, obesity, arthritis, pregnancy, or overuse, a chiropractor can provide full treatment. However, in complex cases such as fractures, sprains, or tumors, seeing a medical doctor is essential.

When should I see a neurologist for a pinched nerve? ›

Pinched nerves often heal with conservative care, but if the condition that's causing the problem doesn't improve, you can end up with permanent damage to the nerve. You should see the doctor when: Your pain is severe. Your symptoms get worse.

What is a very strong muscle relaxer? ›

Carisoprodol. Carisoprodol helps alleviate musculoskeletal pain. It's a schedule IV drug (meaning it's a controlled substance) that is prone to abuse. While its potency usually sets within 30 minutes, its effectiveness is only known to last up to three weeks.

What makes nerve pain worse? ›

High levels of stress and anxiety can amplify your pain. Physical stress and exertion can increase your nerve pain as well. Strenuous exercise and the accompanying soreness can contribute to nerve pain during the night. Living in a chronic state of stress will wreak havoc on your physical and mental health.

Is there an injection for nerve pain? ›

Nerve blocks, or neural blockades, are procedures that can help prevent or manage many different types of pain. They are often injections of medicines that block pain from specific nerves. They can be used for pain relief as well as total loss of feeling if needed for surgery.

Does biofreeze help with nerve pain? ›

If you are experiencing pain from peripheral neuropathy, Biofreeze can help. Biofreeze is a topical analgesic that penetrates the skin quickly and provides temporary relief from pain. Biofreeze is available in three different forms: gel, roll-on, and spray.

Does tramadol help with pinched nerve pain? ›

Tramadol is a powerful painkiller related to morphine that can be used to treat neuropathic pain that does not respond to other treatments a GP can prescribe.

Does Icy Hot help pinched nerve? ›

In short, the chemical properties of Icy Hot cannot penetrate deep enough into your muscles to cause any substantial healing, but they can provide a temporary relief by stimulating the nerves near your skin and blocking pain signals.

What disease is a pinched nerve in the neck? ›

Cervical radiculopathy (also known as “pinched nerve”) is a condition that results in radiating pain, weakness and/or numbness caused by compression of any of the nerve roots in your neck. Most cases of cervical radiculopathy go away with nonsurgical treatment.

Is a pinched nerve extremely painful? ›

A pinched nerve frequently is associated with pain in the neck or lower back. This type of pain can be caused by inflammation or pressure on the nerve root as it exits the spine. If the pain is severe or lasts a long time, you may need to have further evaluation from your physician.

What are the signs you need neck surgery? ›

Here are three signs that your back and neck is signaling that it's time to make that call. Numbness in your arms or legs, or your hands or feet. Tingling, in the same locations as the numbness. Weakness in your arms or legs.

What neck pain requires surgery? ›

There are some types of neck conditions that are more often associated with neck surgery. These include issues like pinched nerves, compression of the spinal cord, and severe neck fractures.

When is it time for neck surgery? ›

What are the general indications for neck surgery? Nerve compression that leads to motor weakness. Nerve pain that is not tolerated or necessitates unacceptable reduction of activities due to pain. Degenerative disc or facet disease that causes intolerable neck pain.

What does a neurosurgeon do for a pinched nerve? ›

Pinched nerve surgeries are typically minimally invasive, making them quicker and easier to recover from. Depending on the area of the impingement, your neurosurgeon may choose to perform a microdiscectomy, foraminotomy or laminectomy, anterior cervical discectomy (with or without a fusion) or lumbar spine fusion.

What is the most common neck surgery? ›

Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF)

The most common surgery for neck pain involves a discectomy, which is the removal of a problematic disc in the cervical spine. Typically, the surgery is performed through the front of the neck, called anterior cervical discectomy.

How do neurologists treat nerve pain? ›

Injections, such as peripheral nerve injections and epidurals may be recommended. We also offer spinal cord stimulation, an implanted device, which sends electrical pulses to the spinal cord to mask the pain. In some cases, surgery will be necessary.

What is the most common symptom of nerve damage? ›

10 Signs You May Be Suffering from Nerve Pain
  • Numbness or tingling in feet and hands.
  • Loss of balance and falling.
  • Throbbing and sharp pain.
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch.
  • Dropping things with your hands.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Heavy feeling in arms and legs.
  • Dramatic drop in blood pressure.
Mar 21, 2017

How does a neurologist check for nerve damage? ›

a nerve conduction test (NCS), where small metal wires called electrodes are placed on your skin that release tiny electric shocks to stimulate your nerves; the speed and strength of the nerve signal is measured.

How long is too long for nerve pain? ›

How Long Have You Had the Pain? If you experience pain or discomfort from a pinched nerve for more than three days and you're not finding any relief from over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or other treatments, this is a red flag.

What to do if nerve pain get worse? ›

Powerful opioid painkillers might be a first choice for people with especially severe pain or nerve pain caused by cancer. However, for other kinds of nerve pain, doctors generally try anti-inflammatories, over the counter pain relievers, antidepressants and/or anticonvulsants first.

Why is nerve pain so difficult to treat? ›

Each peripheral nerve is in itself complex; it has a very dedicated role relating to its own particular area of the body. Once this is damaged it is difficult to treat it because of the complexity of the nervous system.

How serious is a pinched nerve in your neck? ›

A pinched nerve can become serious, causing chronic pain, or even lead to permanent nerve damage. Fluid and swelling can do irreversible damage to the nerves, so be sure to contact your provider if your symptoms worsen or don't improve after several days.

What are severe symptoms of a pinched nerve in your neck? ›

Pinched nerve signs and symptoms include: Numbness or decreased sensation in the area supplied by the nerve. Sharp, aching or burning pain, which may radiate outward. Tingling, pins and needles sensations (paresthesia)

Should I go to the ER for a pinched nerve in my neck? ›

If your pain from what you think is a pinched nerve lasts more than a couple of days, you should seek medical attention.

How long does it take to treat a pinched nerve in neck? ›

So how long does a pinched nerve cause pain and discomfort? In most cases, symptoms improve and nerve function resumes to normal within 6 to 12 weeks of conservative treatment. Conservative treatment options include physical therapy, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen.

When does a pinched nerve need surgery? ›

Surgery for a pinched nerve may be required once the symptoms caused by pressure on the spinal nerves have become chronic or severe. The Bonati Spine Procedures utilize patented instruments and techniques to treat chronic pain caused by pinched nerves in the lumbar, cervical or thoracic spine.

How painful is a pinched nerve? ›

Symptoms most commonly include a sharp pain in the neck, shoulder, arm, hand, leg, or back. A pinched nerve may cause tingling, numbness, or burning. Weakness in the arms also may result. For many people, symptoms get better with time and go away.

When is neck pain an emergency? ›

Call your doctor if you have neck pain that: Worsens in spite of self-care. Persists after several weeks of self-care. Radiates down your arms or legs.

What to do when nerve pain becomes unbearable? ›

​Coping with very severe pain can be a harrowing experience, but there are some ways you can try to deal with the experience at home.
  1. Heat and cold. ...
  2. Topical medication. ...
  3. Over the counter pain medication. ...
  4. Taking your prescribed pain medication. ...
  5. Stretching and light exercise. ...
  6. Getting your feelings out. ...
  7. Using positive mantras.
Jun 8, 2020

Do muscle relaxers help with pinched nerves? ›

Nonsurgical Treatments

You can often get relief from your symptoms by adding medication to your treatment for a pinched nerve in the neck. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help the pain caused by nerve inflammation. Over-the-counter muscle relaxers can also provide a certain degree of relief as well.

Do pinched nerves show up on MRI? ›

MRIs create images using a radiofrequency magnetic field, a technique that clearly shows pinched nerves, disc disease, and inflammation or infections in the spinal tissues. MRI is usually the preferred imaging for pinched nerves.

What triggers a pinched nerve in neck? ›

A pinched nerve in the neck happens when a vertebra or disc in the upper part of your spine squeezes a nerve. This can happen because of an injury. Or it can just happen with age. The changes that happen from an injury or aging may put pressure on a nearby nerve root, pinching it.

How long is too long for a pinched nerve? ›

In most situations, a pinched nerve may last anywhere from a few days to a few months in severe scenarios. The best thing you can do to possibly reduce the time you're experiencing the pinched nerve issue is to seek the appropriate medical care as soon as possible.

Can a chiropractor fix a pinched nerve? ›

Chiropractic is a great way to relieve pinched nerves – and it's something we can do for you today. Professional Chiropractors have an intimate understanding of the body and the nerves, and know where to apply pressure to reduce pain, relieve tension, and hasten recovery.


1. Exercises for pinched nerve in the neck (Cervical Radiculopathy) and neck pain relief
(Dr. Andrea Furlan)
2. Cervical Radiculopathy | “Pinched” Nerve in Neck Rehab (Education | Exercises | Surgery | Myths)
(E3 Rehab)
3. How to Heal Nerve Pain, Pinched Nerve, Neuropathy | Dr. Alan Mandell, DC
4. Proper Sleeping Positions for Neck Pain, Back Pain, Pinched Nerves and Sciatica / Dr. Mandell
5. 7 Foods to improve nerve pain and 5 to avoid if you have neuropathic pain
(Dr. Andrea Furlan)
6. Pinched Nerve In Neck Symptoms & Treatment
(Back Intelligence)


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