Causes of a pinched nerve in your neck. We are seeing so many more patients suffering from a pinched nerve in their neck, and the likely reason we’re sitting too much. We’re not moving enough. We’re slouching in front of our computers, sitting with poor posture, and watching TV. This puts pressure on our discs, which is probably one of the most common causes of a pinched nerve in your neck is a disc bulge or herniation.
Another thing that can cause a pinched nerve is degenerative disc disease or a bone spur or osteophyte that might be pressing on a nerve.
If you’re under a lot of stress, tight muscles can also irritate or pinch a nerve causing that pain down your arm.
Clinically, this correlates with a neck that’s out of alignment or not moving correctly.
So often, these things go in conjunction with an underlying issue like a disc bulge herniation or degenerative disc disease.
Before we get into these stretches, here is our disclaimer:
We want you to stop immediately if any of these stretches or exercises cause more discomfort. We also encourage you to make sure you have an appropriate diagnosis before attempting any of these. Without an inappropriate diagnosis, you don’t know if the cause of your problem is treatable without professional help. So we encourage you to seek a proper diagnosis from your healthcare provider before trying any exercises or stretches.
Stretches or Exercises Pinched Nerve in your Neck
We’re going to break these stretches into two groups. The first group is going to be general. These are the ones that we recommend you try first and see if they give you any relief.
The second series of stretches will be a little more specific to specific nerve roots. How will you know if they’re working? Your pain, your tingling, and your weakness will improve. One thing you want to pay attention to is what we call centralization. Centralization is when the pain starts moving back to the center of your body or spinal segments. If you are experiencing centralization or a reduction of the pain, and it seems to be focusing more and more centrally, you are on the right track.
Long Axis Distraction
For the first one, we’re gonna apply some traction.
The first thing you’re going to do, you can take your hands and cup them on the back of the occiput, and you’re going to drive your thumbs underneath your mandible or chin. You want to be careful here. If you have a jaw or a TMJ joint problem, you don’t want to irritate that, trying to fix your pinched nerve. So what we’re going to do, we’re going to take our hands. We’re in a cup, our head, and we’re going to slightly traction, almost like a tricep extension. You will slowly increase the force until you get a comfortable feel. You’re going to hold that for a minimum of 10 seconds. Try to make it up to about 30 seconds, and you can do this three times.
For some that might find that difficult with the arms, another easy, effective way to do this is with a small towel or a pillowcase. Again, we’re going to come behind our neck, just very simply extend up, really pull. And some of the variations here for some of you might get relief when your head is slightly extended, but for some, that might
irritate the nerves. So if that irritates it, try to come into a bit of flexion and pull up; just change the angle slightly. Typically you’ll have an irritated nerve on one side.
So another variation of this is when you’re, tractioning up, just rotate to one side, often the side away from the irritated nerve. So if it’s on your left, you’re going to traction and maybe a little more force through the upper hand. So you’re tractioning the neck and opening up the one side where those nerves come out.
Lordosis Stretch + Traction
We like this next one because it helps support the
natural curve in the neck. We all know the natural curve is essential to keep pressure off the discs and the nerves happy as the exit between the two bones.
You’ll need a rolled towel or a small pool noodle for this one. So we’re going to lie down. We’re gonna place the rolled towel or the small pool noodle right in the middle of our neck. So immediately start to feel some traction as that smooth curve is stretched and relaxed into the correct position.
In addition, we’re gonna take our hands on the back of our head and our mandible like in the first one I showed you, and we’re going to gently traction while our neck is supported by the pool noodle or the rolled towel. For this one, we can stay on this pool noodle for 10 to 30 seconds, three to five times, with a bit of rest between each set. A modification is if you find that your rolled towel is insufficient, come to the edge of a couch or a bed. And again, just use the weight of your head to traction into that cervical lordosis. What this does works to open up the disc spaces in the correct alignment and help take pressure off those nerves.
The next general stretch we are going to go through with you focuses on the scalene muscles. The scalene muscles are the muscles that run along the side of your neck and the nerves from your neck have to go through those muscles to exit, to go down the arm.
Sometimes these muscles will be tight because you have an alignment issue, you’re stressed out, there’s been an injury and this can irritate pinch or cause inflammation in the nerves. To do this stretch effectively the first thing we’re always going to do is make sure your head is over top of your shoulders. We don’t want our head forward. As well, we want our shoulder blades pinched together. So we’re going to assume that the irritated nerve is said on our left arm and pains going down our arm. We’re gonna pull our shoulders back, keep our head in neutral. We’re going to lean away to pull down or depress the shoulder. We’re to take our opposite hand and pull slightly as we lean away, we’re going to hold this stretch for 15 to 30 seconds before we come off and relax.
Don’t pull too hard here. You’ll notice as you lean away and you’re gripping the bottom of the edge of a bench or a chair or anything you can get your hand under, you’re going to notice that you don’t need to reef on your neck. It’s going to open up the foramen where the nerves come out and it’s going to stretch those muscles.
Nerve Flossing Techniques
Now that we finished the three general stretches, we’re going to move on to more specific stretches. We call these nerve glides or nerve flossing. And so we’ll explain to you a specific stretch for three primary nerve roots.
We show you one for the median nerve, one for the radial nerve, and one for the ulnar nerve. So this will be very effective if you know you have an entrapment or an irritation to one of those nerves. Just like our spine is designed to move to keep the discs healthy, the nerves are meant to slide and glide. These nerves need movement for proper blood supply, fluid exchange, and nutrition, so these nerve flossing techniques help maintain the movement within the nerves.
They’re essential for them to heal and break up any adhesions or scar tissues that might be irritating the nerves along their pathway. So there are many modifications and ways to nerve floss.
For more information, please visit us. We have free physiotherapy consultations and assessments.
Those are, in our opinion, some of the easiest and most effective ones you can do in the comfort of your home to get some relief. We hope you found some value in that content. And some of the stretches, either the general or the more specific ones, are giving you some immediate relief right now.