In a pinch: Breaking down cervical radiculopathy

A “pain in the neck” is a common phrase used to describe that one annoying thing you are forced to deal with in your life. It could include a specific house chore, work responsibility, or a person you know…

A literal “pain in the neck” could also be referred to as a pinched nerve, or medically-speaking, cervical radiculopathy.

This is the result of pressure being applied to a nerve. The symptoms of a trapped nerve in the neck can vary in severity from mild to extremely painful depending on the degree of entrapment.


What causes it?

Nerve pain usually occurs due to compression between the neck facet joints that connect each spinal bone to the next. The facet joints are surrounded by protective capsules that, when put under strain, become inflamed and subsequently put pressure on the spinal nerves exiting in that region, resulting in nerve pain.

Another potential culprit is cervical spondylosis. This is an age-related degeneration (‘wear and tear’) of the vertebrae and discs in the neck. As we get older, the discs become thinner and the vertebrae move closer together.

This compression may create ‘spurs’ of bone (known as osteophytes) which can form at the edges of the vertebrae and the facet joints. Over time, these can press down on one or more of the nerve roots, resulting in a pinched nerve.

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Do I have a trapped nerve?

A trapped nerve can produce symptoms such as pain that is aching or sharp, neck or spinal pain, shoulder pain, pain that radiates down the arm, a burning sensation or numbness, and pins and needles in arms and fingers, headaches, muscle wasting and loss of grip strength.

When a nerve is trapped, the pain and other symptoms may not be at the actual site. Instead, the pain and other sensations can travel to other parts of the body, including down and through the arm.

Trapped nerves are usually associated with hours of sitting with poor posture. Sitting or standing hunched over with your head forward is hard on your body. All of that bending can cause compression of nerves, resulting in pain and numbness and tingling in the fingers.

Further trauma and strain on the neck and spine resulting in neck pain can be caused by sports injuries, repetitive strain, sleeping awkwardly and inappropriate exercise. These faulty movement patterns and traumas can cause the spinal vertebrae to stiffen up instead of being able to move freely.

When this happens, the joints in the spine do not move properly – therefore increasing the potential for strain with subsequent inflammation which then results in a trapped nerve.


There are many degrees to which a nerve can become injured and trapped, however in most cases (depending on the extent of the injury) these conditions respond well to osteopathic treatment. Get in touch with us today on 01722 512 043 or click here to book an appointment.



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