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Do I Need Physical Therapy for a Pinched Nerve in My Neck?

By January 18, 2024No Comments

physical therapy for a pinched nerve

A pinched nerve in your neck can feel, well, like a pain in the neck! It can feel like sharp pain, burning, tingling, or weakness that radiates down the arm, preventing you from having full range of motion and an active life.

The good news? A pinched nerve can be treated. The even better news? Pinched nerve treatment includes non-invasive options — like physical therapy. At Spine Medicine and Surgery of Long Island, we take a conservative approach to patient treatment, so our first recommendation for pinched nerve symptoms is often physical therapy.

What Is A Pinched Nerve?

But before we talk about treatment, let’s clarify what exactly a pinched nerve in your neck is all about. A pinched nerve, also called “cervical radiculopathy,” is typically caused by compression or inflammation of the nerve roots in the cervical spine — the neck area of your spine. How does this happen? This can come from either a herniated disc in your neck or degenerative changes in your spine (called cervical spondylosis).

A herniated disc is more common in people younger than 50 years old and can happen from:

  • Aging
  • Repetitive neck motions
  • Lack of regular exercise
  • Poor posture
  • Incorrect body mechanics when lifting or twisting which then cause stress on your neck
  • Injury to your neck.

On the other hand, cervical spondylosis is mainly attributed to the general wear and tear of our bodies over time. As we age, our spine can experience changes that cause neck pain and compressed nerves from a:

  • Narrowing of disc space
  • Bulging of the contour of discs
  • Calcification of discs and vertebral margins that result in spurs.

Physical Therapy for a Pinched Nerve

Sometimes a compressed nerve can heal on its own with at-home treatments like rest, over-the-counter pain relief, or wearing a neck collar to stabilize the neck. But if these don’t alleviate your neck pain, a visit to a spine specialist like Dr. Choi or Dr. Toombs is a must. As doctors who take a conservative approach when it comes to treating cervical radiculopathy, we prefer to explore non-invasive options like physical therapy before even thinking about surgery. Some studies even show that cervical radiculopathy can abate over time and without surgery.

Physical therapy is a standout non-invasive option. Targeted exercises and techniques for cervical radiculopathy alleviate pain, reduce inflammation and prevent future incidents of a pinched nerve or nerve damage by improving strength, flexibility, and mobility.

What Can You Expect With Physical Therapy for Cervical Radiculopathy?

Once Dr. Choi or Dr. Toombs has diagnosed your pinched nerve and recommended physical therapy as your first line of relief, they will guide you through exercises for cervical radiculopathy that gently stretch and strengthen your neck and shoulder muscles. You’ll also learn proper posture and body mechanics to avoid aggravating the condition. Your unique, personalized treatment plan will consist not only of in-office physical therapy but at-home exercises and therapeutic practices to continue your recovery.

Why Physical Therapy Instead of Surgery?

When it comes to cervical radiculopathy, you might wonder why we at Spine Medicine and Surgery of Long Island would first suggest physical therapy for a pinched nerve instead of jumping into surgery right away. As mentioned, we’re all about a conservative approach: avoiding unnecessary surgeries and opting for less- or minimally-invasive methods first. Spine surgery often comes with extended recovery and downtime and we want our patients to experience reduced pain as soon as possible. 

In addition, some patients aren’t candidates for spine surgery (such as cervical disc replacement surgery) because of pre-existing conditions or current medications. In contrast, physical therapy is suitable for most pinched nerve patients, and comes with the long-term benefit of strengthening your body to help prevent future injuries.

Neck Pain Relief with Pain Management Specialist, Dr. Argyriou

Sometimes, despite all non-invasive efforts, pain from a pinched nerve persists but surgery is still not recommended for you. This is where our pain management specialist, Dr. Antigone Argyriou, can step in with treatments you can try concurrently with physical therapy. For a pinched nerve, Dr. Argyriou might recommend interventional pain management such as epidural steroid injections, facet joint injections, or radiofrequency ablation after facet joint injections.

Freedom from Pinched Nerves With Your New York Spine Specialists

When it comes to neck pain from a pinched nerve, physical therapy — with or without interventional pain treatments — can get you back to a better quality of life!

Schedule an appointment at our Ronkonkoma, Garden City, NY, or Teaneck NJ, office to start your journey towards relief from that pesky pinched nerve.

Dr. Daniel Choi

Author Dr. Daniel Choi

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