ZocdocAnswersHow do you get a pinched nerve?

Question

How do you get a pinched nerve?

My doctor said that the pain in my neck (its been aching a lot lately, especially in the morning) could be from a pinched nerve. How does this happen and what should I do about it?

Answer

Pinched nerves typically occur in the spine for one of two major reasons - either arthritis changes to the spines produce bony projections or narrowing of spinal openings that put pressure on the nerves leaving the spinal cord, or the discs between the vertebrae bulge out against the nerve. Regardless of the cause, the symptoms are similar - radiating, shooting pain or 'electricity' that typically runs down into the arms or the legs, depending on where the site of the pinched nerve is. Although pinched nerves are common in the neck, even more common is something called paraspinal muscle spasm, which occurs when the muscles running up and down the sides of the spine become fatigued and inflamed. The symptoms are similar to those of a pinched nerve, except that there is more stiffness and the pain tends to be more localized to the neck and does not tend to shoot down the arms like a pinched nerve would. Initially, both conditions are treated the same - with rest, ice, and anti inflammatory medications like ibuprofen. Stretching and strengthening exercises or physical therapy is also often quite helpful. Talk to your primary care doctor for additional advice on treating this pain. I hope you feel better soon.

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