A common occurrence in a chiropractic office is for a patient to report they woke up with a "pinched nerve" in the neck. The pain is most often reported as a sharp stabbing pain that is produced with rotation or extension of the head. Many times the pain is unilateral and often causes muscles in the neck to become inflamed and sore. Most of the time, the nerve is not actually pinched but rather irritated. The irritation can be caused by a number of factors the most prominent being reduced motion between vertebrae leading to a lack of circulation and increased tissue acidity. These biochemical changes cause the nerve to become more sensitive leading to pain with slight changes in pressure within the joint capsule.

A true "pinched nerve" in the neck is actually quite rare although it does occur. This condition is usually described as cervical radiculopathy. Cervical radiculopathy is a condition in which the nerve root is being compressed resulting in an inability to fully conduct electrical signals from the brain to the body (efferent neurons) or from the body to the brain (afferent neurons). Symptoms can result such as weakness in an arm or along the path of the nerve, numbness or pins and needles down an arm, radicular pain down an arm or loss of fine motor control in an arm. Other symptoms can include a burning sensation down the arm or the arm may feel like it is "falling asleep". The most common causes of cervical radiculopathy are a herniated disc, a bone spur, spinal stenosis or a buildup of inflammation and/or scar tissue. Any of these changes can increases the pressure on a nerve.

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