Stiff neck or pinched nerve

Four Tests to Determine if You Have a Pinched Nerve in Your Neck

If you have any of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from a pinched nerve:

  • Pain in the neck that radiates beyond your elbow or to your fingertips
  • Shoulder blade pain
  • Hand, arm, or shoulder weakness
  • Dull aches, numbness, or tingling
  • Pain aggravated by neck movements

If you have any of the aforementioned symptoms, administer this self-movement test to help you determine if a pinched nerve is the cause of your pain:

  1. Arm tension test:
    • First, perform this test on your non-painful arm to determine the natural range of comfortable motion.
    • Extend your non-painful arm directly in front of you, keeping your wrist straight and in-line with your arm.
    • Turn your wrist outward, so your palm is facing away from your body.
    • Extend your arm to the side as far as you can comfortably go. By the end of this movement, your position should look like the image below:
    • Try the same movement with your painful arm. By the time you extend your wrist, if you begin to feel increased symptoms on the path throughout the arm or in the neck, then stop. You have tested positive for arm tension.
    • If you still do not feel increased symptoms, then continue to extend your arm out to the side.
    • If you feel pain, numbness, or tingling in the arm as you extend it, and/or you cannot extend it as far as the non-painful arm, then you have tested positive for arm tension and should continue to the next test.
    • If you did not experience symptoms or limited range of motion throughout this test, then stop. It is likely that the source of your pain is not a pinched nerve.
  2. Neck compression test:
    • You should continue to this test if you tested positive for arm tension. Once again, you want to begin on your non-painful side to get a good baseline.
    • Tilt your head to the non-painful side (if your left side is your good side, then tilt your head to the left and vice versa).
    • Keeping your head titled, rotate your head outwards slightly, as if you were looking over your shoulder
    • Hold this position for 30-60 seconds.
    • Perform the same movement to the painful side
    • If you feel neck pain, pain or tingling that radiates down the arm, or numbness, then you have tested positive.
  3. Head turn test:
    • If you have tested positive for both tests so far, perform this test on your non-painful side first.
    • Turn your head to the non-painful side and hold it there for a few seconds. You should have full motion and no pain.
    • Turn your head to the painful side and hold it there for a few seconds. If you have limited motion or cannot turn your head as far on this side as you could on your non-painful side, then you have tested positive.
  4. Relief test:
    • For this test, you will want to see if relieving tension on the nerve will reduce your symptoms. You can do this by tilting your head AWAY from the painful side (similar to the compression test).
    • Use your non-painful arm to hold it there up to a minute
    • Ask yourself if this relieves your symptoms. Do you feel less numbness and tingling in the arm? Or warmth as if your arm is regaining sensation?

If you have tested positive for all four of these exercises, then it’s likely that a pinched nerve may be the source of your pain. If you tested positive, then you may be interested in these home remedies for nerve pain.

*As a reminder, always discuss any questions or concerns with your physician regarding your own health and dietary needs, as the information written should not replace any medical advice.

Is My Neck Pain Caused by a Pinched Nerve?

If you suspect that you have a pinched nerve in your neck, it is important to consult with your doctor. Fortunately, most instances of a pinched nerve will resolve without treatment within three to six weeks. But some pinched nerves can lead to other, more serious conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, so it is a good idea to have a doctor evaluate you and monitor your recovery. Peripheral neuropathy is damage to nerves that exist outside the spinal cord and brain, and the numbness, burning, and prickling sensation caused by neuropathy may become permanent.

To diagnose a pinched nerve in your neck, your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms. Your exam will likely involve manipulation of your neck to determine what positions cause you pain. An X-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, and perhaps magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be taken to give your doctor a better view of what is going on in your neck.

Pinched Nerve: Treatment Options

Treatment options for a pinched nerve include:

  • Rest. Your doctor will likely recommend that you rest your neck until your symptoms improve. This may involve using a cervical collar to help keep your neck still.
  • Medication. Anti-inflammatory drugs or other medications can help relieve the pain of a pinched nerve.
  • Physical therapy. In some cases, a physical therapist may help you perform heat or ice therapy, electrical stimulation, cervical traction, massage, and exercises to relieve some of your symptoms.
  • Surgery. In rare situations, neck surgery to relieve the pressure on your nerve may be necessary.

A pinched nerve is nothing to ignore — you certainly don’t want to risk nerve damage. While most pinched nerves resolve within a few weeks, be sure to let your doctor make the exact diagnosis and determine your course of treatment.

When to Call a Doctor for a Pinched Nerve

Friday, February 26th, 2016, 7:51 pm

A pinched nerve—the layman’s term for what doctors call a “compressed nerve”—can be very painful. There are self-care options, such as heat/ice, massage, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. If your pain has just started or if it isn’t too severe, you can try these. And rest assured: Most cases of pinched nerves go away on their own.

However, there comes a point when you should seek medical attention for your back pain or neck pain caused by a pinched nerve. Watch out for these severe symptoms.

Call a doctor if:You have persistent pain. 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.You have a sudden onset of “acute focal weakness.” That’s doctor-speak for unexpected weakness or pain in a specific area. For example, if your whole right leg becomes unable to carry your weight, that’s acute focal weakness.

(We should point out, though, that if you have sudden pain in your left arm, it may be a sign of a heart attack—and warrants a call to 9-1-1 or a trip to the emergency room.)You experience profound numbness or loss of sensation. (This could also be a sign of a stroke; another example of a symptom possibly requiriring urgent medical attention.)You lose bowel or bladder control.Pay attention to your body and pain. If any of your symptoms concern you, call your doctor.

Pinched Nerves Can Cause Back and Neck Pain

Brain to the Spinal Cord and BeyondNerves extend from the brain into the arms and legs to send messages to the muscles or skin. A nerve that leaves the spine to go into the arms or legs is called a peripheral nerve. Peripheral nerves are bundles of millions of nerve fibers that leave the spinal cord and branch outward to other parts of the body such as muscles and skin. For example, these nerves make muscles move and enable skin sensation (feeling).

Nerves Carry Signals Throughout the Body A peripheral nerve is like a fiber-optic cable, with many fibers encased in an outer sheath. You can think of each individual fiber as a microscopic garden hose. The green part of the hose is a fine membrane where a static electrical charge can travel to or from the brain. The inside of the hose transports fluid from the nerve cell body that helps nourish and replenish the ever-changing components of the green part, or membrane.

If the nerve is pinched, the flow up and down the inside of the hose is reduced or blocked, meaning nutrients stop flowing. Eventually, the membrane starts to lose its healthy ability to transmit tiny electrical charges and the nerve fiber may eventually die. When enough fibers stop working, a muscle may not contract and skin may feel numb.

What Causes a Pinched Nerve?A nerve can be pinched as it leaves the spine by a herniated disc or bone spurs that form from spinal arthritis. Another common place for pinched nerves is the carpal tunnel. This is a bottleneck area, through which all the finger flexor tendons and the median nerve must pass to the hand. Regardless of where the nerve is pinched, in the neck or carpal tunnel, the patient often will feel similar symptoms of numbness in the hand, because the brain does not know how to tell the difference between the beginning, middle, or end of a nerve. It only knows that it is not receiving signals from the hand, and so numbness begins.

Pinched Nerve TreatmentsIf you just woke up with something that feels like a pinched nerve—or if you seem to have developed that pain over the course of the day—you do have some self-care options.

The pain may be coming from a muscle spasm or strain that’s putting pressure on the nerve, so you can try relaxing your muscles. Try, for example:

  • alternating between heat and ice on the affected area: switch between them every 20 minutes, and remember to wrap the heat and ice packs in a towel before putting them on your skin.
  • taking a hot shower
  • laying down with a rolled up towel under your neck
  • using a handheld massager
  • getting a massage

Although you may not feel like it, you may want to try simply keeping your body and joints moving to find relief from a pinched nerve pain. You can:

  • do general range of motion stretches and movements: if your neck has the pinched nerve, you can do some simple neck rolls. As you stretch the affected area, your body will release endorphins in response to the movement. Those endorphins can give pain relief.
  • take a light stroll: this is especially good if your low back is hurting you.
  • lay on a bed/couch and pull your knees up towards your chest: this is especially good if your low back is hurting you.

Another self-care option is to take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory, such as Aleve or Advil.

Very few patients end up needing surgery for pinched nerves; for most of them, non-surgical treatments work to relieve their pain.

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How to treat a pinched nerve

There are a variety of ways a person can relieve the pain of a pinched nerve at home.

1. Extra sleep and rest

Share on PinterestResting the area and getting adequate sleep may help to treat symptoms.

Sleep is essential for a healing nerve. The body repairs itself during sleep, so giving it more time to do so may help reduce symptoms quicker.

In many cases, resting the affected area and getting extra sleep is enough to allow the pinched nerve to heal on its own.

While treating a pinched nerve, it is also important not to overuse the nerve. Nerve damage can be made worse by overuse. A person with a pinched nerve should avoid any movements that irritate the nerve. They should also try to sleep in a position that relieves the pressure on the nerve.

2. Change of posture

A pinched nerve may be caused by or made worse by poor posture. Sitting or standing with an incorrect posture for extended periods puts unnecessary stress on the body, which may damage the spine and muscles, leading to a pinched nerve.

Using cushions, adjustable chairs, and neck rests when sitting may help relieve pressure and allow the nerve to heal.

3. Ergonomic workstation

People dealing with pinched nerves could try making changes in their workstation.

Using an ergonomic mouse and keyboard may help reduce pressure in the hands and wrists. Raising a computer monitor to eye level may help reduce neck pain and symptoms of text neck.

Using a standing workstation can help keep the spine moving and flexible, which could reduce back pain.

Ergonomic workstations have a range of positional options, suitable for many types of pinched nerve. Standing desks are available for purchase online.

The best way to find the right position is for an individual to experiment with the settings to see which position relieves pressure.

4. Pain relieving medications

Over-the-counter pain medications may also help with a pinched nerve. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce swelling and relieve pain in cases of minor pinched nerves.

NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, are available for purchase over-the-counter or online.

As with any drug, it is important to consult a doctor for dosage recommendations and any potential interactions before using NSAIDs.

5. Stretching and yoga

Gentle stretching and yoga may help relieve tension and pressure in the area. It is important not to stretch too deeply, as this may make symptoms worse.

If a person experiences any pain or discomfort while exercising, they should stop immediately to avoid damaging the nerve any further.

6. Massage or physical therapy

Having a massage may also help reduce physical pain and stress. Applying gentle pressure around the affected area may help relieve tension, and a full body massage can help the muscles relax.

Deep tissue massages may not be a good idea because the extra pressure may make the symptoms worse.

Physical therapy, using a combination of exercise, massage, and gentle stretches, can help relieve symptoms.

7. Splint

If it is possible, wearing a splint on the affected area can help prevent further damage and help the nerve heal. This is a standard treatment for pinched nerves in the hands and wrists.

Many people also sleep with the splint on to prevent any irritation in the night and help them sleep. The splint will help take pressure off the nerve.

8. Elevate the legs

People with pinched nerves in the back may find relief by elevating their legs to remove any pressure from the spine.

A person can achieve this by putting a few pillows under their knees, so their legs are at a 45° degree angle to the body.

9. Ice and heat packs

Alternating between heat and ice packs can help reduce swelling and inflammation in many cases. The combination of hot and cold increases the circulation of fresh blood to the area, which may help relieve pain.

Hold an ice pack over the affected area for about 15 minutes at a time, three times a day to help reduce inflammation. Heat pads can be applied for a longer period, up to 1 hour, three times a day.

Ice packs and heat packs for injuries are available for purchase online.

10. Lifestyle changes

In the long-term, adding a low-impact exercise, such as walking, swimming, or bicycling, to a daily regimen may help reduce symptoms and keep the body in shape. Losing extra weight can help reduce pressure on the nerves, and the added mobility from a regular workout may reduce inflammation.

Stretching before or after low-impact exercises can help keep the body flexible and reduce pressure and inflammation near the nerves.

Neck pain is an increasing problem, especially in areas where workers tend to be more sedentary.

Somewhere between 22% and 70% of the American population will experience neck pain at some point in their lives, with 0.08% of these cases stemming from a pinched nerve in the neck (Childs et al 2008) (Cleland et al 2005).

The following article will provide a brief overview of the background, causes, symptoms, and simple exercises for a pinched nerve.

Table Of Contents:

What is a pinched nerve in the neck?

This condition is also known as cervical radiculopathy – so what is it? The neck contains bones called vertebrae that stack on top of one another. Encased in these bones is the spinal cord which eventually gives way to nerves that supply the arms.

These nerves exit from the spinal cord and travel between the bones in the neck and go into the arm. When one of these nerves become compressed or irritated, the resulting condition is a pinched nerve.

What causes a pinched nerve?

In almost all my patients poor posture is the main cause.

Specifically what poor posture?

Rounded shoulders AND forward head posture

This posture places increased stress on certain areas in the neck which may lead to:

  • Bulge of the disc that sits between vertebrae which will compress the nerve exiting from the spine in that area.
  • Inflammation of the area where the nerves exit the spine and travel into the arms.
  • More bone being laid down around the neck bones which can compress the nerves exiting from the spine.

Pinched nerve in neck symptoms:

These symptoms can vary in location based on the exact nerve involved.

  • Arm pain- may be burning or sharp and may be anywhere along the arm
  • Pain near the shoulder blade(s)
  • One-sided neck pain
  • Numbness/tingling in arm
  • Weakness in arm

Note: In my experience, this condition can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms could simply be elbow pain or shoulder pain.

Many times, a patient will come to me with a diagnosis of elbow tendonitis, when actually the root cause of the symptoms is an irritation of a nerve in the neck. As you can see, this condition can be easily misdiagnosed.

Is there a long-term solution?
As mentioned previously, the most common cause of this condition is poor posture for extended periods of time. So the key is to fix your posture for sustainable relief! Poor posture will either directly lead to inflammation and irritation of the nerve in the neck, or it will lead to degenerative changes that may compress the nerve years in the future.

So, what can be done about this condition?

Exercise and stretches are often a viable option, and occasionally surgery is an option as well.

Surgery is more commonly considered when severe weakness is found in the arm. However, Heckman et al found that 26% of people who go the surgery route continued to have pain 1 year after surgery, so it’s not a “quick fix”.

I often tell my patients with this condition that surgery should be an absolute last resort unless the physician feels it is a medical emergency. A pinched nerve in the neck is commonly very treatable with exercise and lifestyle modifications.

5 Exercises To Relieve Pinched Nerve In Neck

Below are five effective exercises to alleviate pain and begin to correct faulty posture commonly seen with this condition. It should be noted that every person is different, so not all exercises will work for everyone. If you experience pain with any of these exercises you should stop performing them immediately.

The first 3 exercises are helpful to combat the immediate symptoms, while the last 2 are postural exercises so you can can start fixing the root of the problem.

#1. Chin Tuck While Looking Down

This exercise will help to open up the joint spaces in your neck to provide relief of the compression on the nerve.

How to Do It:

  • Begin sitting in an upright position, shoulders slightly back, head looking straight ahead. It might be easiest to begin doing this in front of a mirror.
  • While keeping your face and mouth relaxed, slowly glide your head straight back, as if you are trying to make a “double chin.”
  • Make sure not to open your mouth with this movement.
  • hile holding this position, slowly look down towards your chest with your entire head.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds, then repeat it 10 times.
  • Remember to keep the “tucked” position the entire time.

#2. Median Nerve Slider

This exercise will help to relieve tension on the nerves coming out of the neck as they travel down your arm. This exercise may or may not be appropriate for you depending on which nerves are involved.

How to Do It:

  • Again, begin in upright position with shoulders slightly back and head facing forward.
  • Using the arm in which you are having symptoms, bring your arm out to the side and the palm of your hand towards your head, similar to the “flex” position for body builders.
  • With the opposite arm, place it on top of your other shoulder.
  • Slowly straighten your elbow and extend your wrist and fingers. You should feel a stretch along the inside of your arm.
  • While straightening (the “flexed”) elbow, slowly bring your ear towards your other shoulder (Opposite to the arm that is straightening) .
  • Continue to straighten your elbow as far as comfortable. If you begin to feel pain or numbness, return back to the start position and only perform the exercise in a comfortable range.
  • Repeat on the other side if you are having symptoms in both arms
  • Repeat 10-20x, depending on your symptoms.

Recommended Program:
The Complete Posture Fix (With Dr. Oliver) – Fix your Posture and Ergonomics, Ease Back & Neck pain, and Increase your Mobility.
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#3. Ulnar Nerve Slider

This exercise is done with the same intention as the previous exercise, however it targets a different nerve. Again, this exercise won’t be appropriate for everyone, so if you notice a significant increase in pain with this exercise, it may not be appropriate for you.

How to Do It:

  • Just the same as before, begin in an upright position with good posture.
  • Make an “O.K.” symbol with your fingers.
  • Slowly bring your elbow out to your side, raise your arm up, and place your three fingers not making the “O.K.” sign on your jaw bone (just to the outside of your chin).
  • Then bring your fingers making the “O” portion of the sign toward your eye.
  • Again, you should feel a stretch with this- maybe in your elbow, maybe in your ring and pinky fingers.
  • Just as with the previous exercise, only perform within a comfortable range.
  • Repeat 10-20x, depending on your symptoms.

#4. Supine Chin Tuck

This is another version of the first exercise, however its goal is to strengthen the muscles on the front part of your neck which typically become lengthened (weakened as a result) with poor posture. If these muscles are weak, it becomes very difficult to maintain proper posture while sitting.

How to Do It:

  • While lying on your back, perform a chin tuck just like in the first exercise, however don’t look down toward your chest.
  • From this position slowly lift your head up off the bed/floor (whatever surface you are on) only about 3-4 inches.
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds, then return to the starting position.
  • Begin with 10 repetitions and gradually increase to 20-30x.
  • Remember to keep breathing while doing this movement.

#5. Standing Pull Apart (Using Resistance Bands)

The last exercise of the series is focused on posture. This will help strengthen the muscles between your shoulder blades and on the back of your shoulders to ultimately allow you to have the strength to maintain proper posture.

How to Do It:

  • Begin standing with a good posture
  • Holding a resistance band (level of resistance you use depends on your individual strength level) with both hands, straighten your elbows and bring your arms out in front of you.
  • While keeping your elbows locked, slowly move your arms out and back behind your body. You should feel the muscles between your shoulder blades contracting/squeezing.
  • Only go out as far as comfortable. Some muscular discomfort (burning) is ok, but pain in the arms or neck is not.
  • Avoid shrugging your shoulders toward your ears.
  • Repeat 2×10, gradually increasing to 3×10.
  • By the time you get to repetition number 8, 9, 10, this should be challenging. If it is not, increase the level of resistance on the band.

Give these exercises a try and see how they feel for you. Treating a pinched nerve in the neck is not a “no pain no gain” situation and you should truly listen to what your body is telling you while you’re doing these exercises. I also must emphasize again that this condition can be difficult to diagnose and if you begin performing these exercises and your symptoms worsen, they are not the solution and I highly recommend you see your physical therapist for further diagnosis.

Recommended Program:
The Complete Posture Fix (With Dr. Oliver, DC)
Correct your Posture and Ergonomics, Ease Back & Neck pain and Increase your mobility.
Learn More

Video Summary:

Questions about the exercises? Leave a comment below

How to fix forward head posture
How to correct rounded shoulders
How to get rid of neck pain
Tight neck? Try levator scapulae stretch

Dr. Julianne Payton got her Doctorate in Physical Therapy at A.T Still university in Arizona, and has a wide-ranging experience with chronic pain, posture, and musculoskeletal health.

Understanding ‘electric pain’

If you’re experiencing something that feels more like burning, stabbing, or shooting pain ― especially if there also is numbness or tingling ― it’s likely to be neuropathic pain. This means there is direct damage or irritation to a nerve. “It can cause a lightning strike type of electric pain,” says Dr. King.

Nerve pain can arise from a variety of causes, including diabetes, infections (such as shingles), multiple sclerosis, the effects of chemotherapy or trauma. When it comes to orthopeadic issues, nerve pain often stems from a nerve being pinched by nearby bones, ligaments and other structures.

For example, a herniated disk in the spine or a narrowing of the spinal canal (stenosis) can press on a nerve as it leaves the spinal canal. This can cause pain along the path of the nerve. When nerves that originate in the lower spine are affected, symptoms might be felt in the buttocks or down a leg. If the compressed nerve is in the upper spine, the pain and other symptoms can shoot down the arm. Numbness or tingling may also occur because the brain is not receiving a consistent signal due to the compression.

Another common cause of nerve pain is carpal tunnel syndrome. A nerve and several tendons travel through a passageway in the wrist (the carpal tunnel) to the hand. Inflammation in the tunnel can press on the nerve, causing numbness and tingling in the thumb and fingers.

How is the cause of nerve pain found?

“There are so many orthopaedic conditions that overlap between pain stemming from problems with tendons, muscles, joints and nerves that you need a very discerning physician to do a good physical exam to figure out the cause,” says Dr. King. “I make my determination based on when the patient experiences pain, where the pain is located and what the pain feels like.”

Pain related to joints, such as from arthritis, will feel more like stiffness when going from sitting to standing. With tendon pain, it will feel sore when you push on the affected area. “Nerve pain is more of a burning, fiery pain,” says Dr. King. And it tends to come and go.

“Nerve pain typically gets worse with more and more use and can be associated with numbness,” says Dr. King.

Ultimately, getting the right treatment depends on getting the right diagnosis. For many bone and joint conditions, nondrug treatment will be tried first. Sometimes pain medication is needed. However, neuropathic pain does not respond to drugs commonly used for nociceptive pain, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

This article originally appeared in Cleveland Clinic Arthritis Advisor.

What You Should Know About Neuropathic Pain

The first goal of neuropathic pain treatment is to identify the underlying disease or condition that’s responsible for the pain, and treat it, if possible. Then, your doctor will aim to provide pain relief, help you maintain typical capabilities despite the pain, and improve your quality of life.

The most common treatments for neuropathic pain include:

Over-the-counter pain medication

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Aleve and Motrin, are sometimes used to treat neuropathic pain. However, many people find these medicines are not effective for neuropathic pain. Unlike pain caused by an injury or headache, neuropathic pain has no “target” for these medicines.

Prescription medication

Opioid pain medications can help some people, but they may not reduce pain from neuropathic pain as well as they reduce other types of pain. Plus, doctors may hesitate to prescribe them for fear that a person may become dependent.

Topical pain relievers can be used, too. These include lidocaine patches, capsaicin patches, and prescription-strength ointments and creams.

Antidepressant drugs

Antidepressant medications have shown great promise in treating symptoms of neuropathic pain. Two common types of antidepressant drugs are prescribed to people with this condition. They are tricyclic antidepressants and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. These may treat both the pain and symptoms of depression or anxiety caused by the chronic pain.


Anti-seizure medications and anticonvulsants are sometimes used to treat neuropathic pain. Gabapentinoids are most commonly prescribed for neuropathic pain. It’s not clear why anti-seizure drugs work for this condition, but researchers believe the medications interfere with the pain signals and stop the faulty transmissions.

Nerve blocks

Your doctor may inject steroids, local anesthetics, or other pain medications into the nerves that are thought to be responsible for the wayward pain signals. These blocks are temporary, so they must be repeated in order to keep working.

Implantable device

This invasive procedure requires a surgeon to implant a device in your body. Some devices are used in the brain, and some are used in the spine. Once a device is in place, it can send electrical impulses into the brain, spinal cord, or nerves. The impulses may stop the irregular nerve signals and control symptoms.

These devices are typically used only in individuals who have not responded well to other treatment options.

Lifestyle treatments

Physical, relaxation, and massage therapies are all used to relieve symptoms of neuropathic pain. These forms of treatment can help ease muscles, which may reduce nerve problems.

Your healthcare provider can also teach you ways to cope with your pain. For example, some people with neuropathic pain may experience increased symptoms after sitting for several hours. This might make desk jobs difficult to perform. A physical therapist or an occupational therapist can teach you techniques for sitting, stretching, standing, and moving that may prevent pain.

Physical or occupational therapy. You might work with a physical therapist to learn movements and balance exercises that help you cope with nerve problems. You might also work with an occupational therapist. This type of therapist helps you find ways to do daily and work activities, even with nerve problems. This might include using specific devices, such as a long pole to pick up items on the floor if you have poor balance. Your therapist might also recommend exercises or classes to help improve your balance and reduce pain.

Getting regular exercise can also help reduce pain. You might also try devices that stimulate the skin with electricity, including scrambler therapy and a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device. More research is needed, but they might help. Talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program or buy anything.

Other treatments. These complementary therapies might help reduce pain and mental stress:

  • Massage

  • Acupuncture

  • Relaxation

Ask your doctor if any of these might help you.

Staying safe at home

Having nerve problems, or peripheral neuropathy, raises your risk of hurting yourself, especially at home. These tips might help you avoid getting hurt.

  • Keep all rooms, hallways, and stairways well lit.

  • Put handrails on both sides of stairways.

  • Remove things you could slip or trip on, such as loose rugs or clutter.

  • Put grab bars and hand grips in your shower or tub. You might also put them next to the toilet. Put mats in the tub or shower so you do not slip. These should be rubber mats that stick to the floor.

  • Check the temperature of your hot water at home. Set your water heater’s top temperature under 110 degrees Fahrenheit. This can help prevent burns if your nerve problems keep you from sensing heat normally.

  • Clean up spilled water or liquids right away, so you do not slip and fall.

  • Use dishes that do not break easily, in case you drop one.

  • Wear rubber gloves when you wash dishes. They help you get a better grip. Use pot holders when you cook, to protect your hands from heat.

  • Check how well you can feel the pedals and steering wheel of your car. Can you switch your foot quickly from the gas to the brake? If not, ask someone else to drive, or tell your doctor.

  • Ask your doctor if a cane or walker would help. If so, use it when moving between rooms.

  • Put cushioning mats in your home and work areas. They can make standing more comfortable.

  • Wear shoes with rocker soles. These are also called “rocker-bottom” soles. Many of these look like regular shoes, including fashionable shoes. Ask your doctor about the best shoes for staying safe and comfortable.

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Exercises to Relieve a Pinched Nerve in the Neck

A physical therapist can demonstrate the best pinched nerve stretches for your symptoms.

Mild pain, however, may be relieved with gentle exercises. These moves focus on stretching neck muscles and alleviating pressure on the nerve.

To prevent further nerve damage, do these exercises slowly. You can perform them while sitting down or standing up.

Trap stretch

Your trapezius muscles are in the back of your neck. If they’re too tight, they can compress your spine and nerves.

This exercise will loosen these muscles and release trapped nerves.

  1. Place your right hand under your thigh.
  2. With your left hand, gently bend your head to the left side.
  3. Pause for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times on each side.

Chin tuck

This move reduces tension in the neck muscles by lengthening your neck. It will also improve posture in the head and neck.

  1. Place your fingers on your chin.
  2. Gently push your chin toward your neck, until you have a “double chin.”
  3. Hold for three to five seconds. Relax.
  4. Repeat three to five times.

Once you’re comfortable with the move, try chin tucks without using your fingers.

Chin tuck with extension

You can add an extra movement to the chin tuck. It will help stretch your neck in a different direction.

For some people, this exercise might cause dizziness. You should avoid it if you have dizziness issues.

  1. Pull your head back to do a chin tuck.
  2. Slowly tilt your head up to the ceiling.
  3. Return to the chin tuck. Relax.
  4. Repeat two sets of five reps.

Head turn

A pinched nerve can decrease your neck’s range of motion, but head turns may help. Perform this exercise in a slow and controlled manner. If you feel pain, try smaller movements.

  1. Straighten your head and neck. Look ahead.
  2. Slowly turn your head to the right. Pause five to 10 seconds.
  3. Slowly turn to the left. Pause five to 10 seconds.
  4. You can also tilt your head side to side and up and down.

Neck bend

If you have a pinched nerve in the neck, exercises like neck bends will provide relief. You should also do this stretch slowly.

  1. Gently move your chin down and toward your chest.
  2. Pause. Return to starting position.
  3. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

Shoulder roll

Shoulder rolls release tension in both the shoulders and neck. This can help relieve pressure and pain from a pinched nerve.

  1. Lift your shoulder blades up, and then roll them back and down.
  2. Repeat five to six times.
  3. Repeat in the opposite direction.

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