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Pinched Neck Nerve Cervical Nerve Stretch Syndrome Symptoms Causes Treatment Preventions & More All you need to know

December 28, 2021

Cervical nerve stretch syndrome is also called burner syndrome or cervical radiculopathy (Pinched Neck Nerve). The condition arises when a nerve emerging from the results from the brachial plexus is stretched, pinched, or compressed. A brachial plexus is a group of nerves in the lower neck and shoulder area.

Pinched Neck Nerve Cervical Nerve Stretch Syndrome Symptoms Causes Treatment Preventions

Contact sports injury is the most common cause of cervical nerve stretch syndrome. The injury is common in contact sports, including hockey, football, wrestling, and rugby.

The condition is characterized by a burning sensation that radiates down the arm and shoulders. Symptoms may be acute or chronic, lasting anywhere from two minutes to two weeks.

Anatomy of the brachial plexus

The nerves of the brachial plexus originate in the brain. They take their exit from the cervical vertebrae and reach their specific destination; muscles and organs.

The brachial plexus sends off several cervical nerve roots to the shoulder. The nerves also supply the trapezius, deltoid muscles, distal end of the radius, the elbow joint, and the fingers.

Cause of the Cervical Nerve stretch syndrome

Contact sports injury often leads to burning syndrome.

• Blow to the head or shoulder as it may happen in a football tackle

• Ear to shoulder bending of the neck with rotation

• Hyperextension of the neck

• Herniated disc

Signs and symptoms of cervical nerve stretch syndrome

The condition presents with;

• Severe, sharp burning pain in the upper extremity; neck, and shoulder

• The pain radiates from the neck to the arm involving the fingers in severe cases

• Paresthesia of the skin; numbness, tingling, pricking, burning sensation of the skin

• Muscle weakness of the upper extremity

• Pain worsening with specific neck movements (extending, straining the neck, and turning the head)

If the condition is left untreated, the symptoms worsen with time. The peripheral nerves also get affected. The pain of the nerve stretch typically decreases by placing the arm of the affected side on top of the head. This is because the move temporarily relieves the pressure on the nerve root.

Treatment for Cervical Nerve Stretch Syndrome (Pinched Neck Nerve)

The majority of cases of cervical radiculopathy resolve on their own and do not require treatment. However, the pain may last from few minutes while it takes weeks for some individuals to get better.

A. Immediately after an injury to few days

1. RICER

Rest and ice application help the condition. Immobilizing or supporting the neck with a soft cervical collar allows the neck muscles to rest and relieve the pinched nerve. The collar should be worn for a short duration to avoid damage to the neck muscles.

2. Medication

NSAIDs, oral corticosteroids, and injections should be used in the order preference according to the severity of the condition.

3. TENS for Pinched Neck Nerve

According to a study, TENS is effective when used in conjunction with isometric neck exercises in reducing the pain of cervical radiculopathy. However, care should be taken not to place the electrodes close to your head or on the front or sides of the neck.

B. After few weeks

4. Massage for Pinched Neck Nerve

Hands-on therapy such as manual cervical traction employed by a trained physiotherapist helps a pinched nerve case. Traction immediately removes the pain by relieving pressure in the neck area.

Gently massaging the muscles of the cervical spine and shoulder blade area also help to relieve the symptoms. Massage helps relax the muscles and improves circulation, thereby promoting healing and pain relief.

Acupressure, skin rolling, and mobilizations are some techniques for a neck massage.

5. Therapeutic ultrasound for Pinched Neck Nerve

Cervical nerve stretch syndrome tends to recur and cause chronic pain in the neck muscles. Therapeutic ultrasound is effective in such cases. It helps relieve the pain, disability, and quality of life of patients with chronic cervical radiculopathy.

6. Active rehabilitation for Pinched Neck Nerve

Specific neck exercises also help relieve pain, strengthen neck muscles, and improve range of motion. Rehabilitation address the muscles supporting the injured brachial plexus nerve.

Some exercises in this regard include;

Ear to shoulder Trapezius stretch

• Sit comfortably on the ground.

• Gently move your head to the right so that your right ear touches your shoulder. Make sure that your left shoulder does not move while you do the stretch.

• Now lift your right hand and take it over your head.

• Rest your right hand on your left cheekbone. There should not be a pull on your head.

• Rest your hand in the same position and apply a bit of pressure so that you feel a stretch in your upper trapezius.

• Hold the stretch for at least thirty seconds and breathe.

• Release and repeat with the other side.

Head turn

• Sit straight and straighten your head and neck. Look in front of you.

• Now, slowly turn your head to the right and pause for 5-10 seconds.

• Turn your head to the left and pause for 5-10 seconds.

• Repeat again but with a tilt of your head to the right and left.

Neck bend

• Sit straight and slowly move your head down towards the chest.

• Hold the stretch for few seconds.

• Bring your head back to starting position and repeat for few more times.

Prevention

• Wear proper protective gear while playing sports.

• Adopt appropriate techniques in your sports.

• Perform upper-extremity strength training

• Maintain good posture.

• Perform stretching exercises for the neck.

• Limit and take breaks from repetitive motions.

Abdur Rashid
Medically Reviewed By Abdur Rashid
MSC Public Health, MCSP, MHCPC
BSC (Hon) Physiotherapy
Consultant Neuro-spinal & Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist

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