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A Pinched Nerve and Headache

Let’s find out how a pinched nerve in the neck can cause head pain and how it can be treated.

What is a pinched nerve?

Medically known as cervical radiculopathy, a pinched nerve in the neck can be caused by one of the diseases, such as:

  1.    Herniated disc – the inner consistency of the vertebrae form a rupture of the disc.
  2.    Cervical spinal stenosis – the narrowing of the spinal canal
  3.    Degenerative disc disease – impingement of the nerve due to the developing of the arthritis

What are the symptoms of pinched nerve in the neck?

A pinched nerve and headaches are connected; nevertheless, people often suffers from headaches and don’t know about the real cause of it. However, certain symptoms can help to determine whether you have a pinched nerve or no. When the lower nerves in the neck are pinched, there is a one side pain (located on the same side as the affected nerve). If to speak about the type of pain it can be described as aching and radiating from the back of the head to the forehead. Some people also complain on the tenderness in the area of the neck muscles on the side where the pinched nerve is located.

Additional signs of pinched nerve in the neck:

  1.    The pain in the shoulder or arm at the same side as the pinched nerve
  2.    Tingling and numbness
  3.    Weakness

How can a pinched nerve be diagnosed?

For a specialist, such as primary care physician, it is quite easy to diagnose a pinched nerve. You will need to go through a simple diagnostic test called the Spurling maneuver. Don’t get scared the procedure is plain: physician turns your head to the affected side and press down on the top of your head. If you feel the same symptoms (like numbness, pain, tingling, etc.), there is a high percentage that you have a pinched nerve in the neck. Afterward, the diagnosis can be confirmed with the help of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomographic myelography (CT myelography), or electromyography (EMG).

What are the treatments of a pinched nerve in the neck?

Doctor will prescribe you medications, such as non-steroidal anti-steroidal anti-inflammatories, opioids, antidepressants (such as venlafaxine), or muscle relaxants. Also, oral steroids can be sometimes prescribed but not for long-term use to avoid potential side effects. Please, do not take any medication without consultation with your doctor! Physical therapy is the injection of the steroids into the affected nerve which can be used as a complementary treatment to primary medication.  Unfortunately, there is a possibility that people with cervical radiculopathy can’t get desired relief despite medication and physical therapy. In such cases, it is better to refer to a spine specialist.

We hope this article helps to clarify the connection between the pinched nerve and headaches.

Gary Starkman Dr. Starkman, a top Neurologist in NYC, is the Medical Director and founder of New York Neurology Associates. He is Board Certified in Neurology with a subspecialty certification in Pain Medicine.

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