How to treat a pinched nerve that’s causing neck, back and/or arm pain

Written by: Mr Dimpu Bhagawati
Published:
Edited by: Emma McLeod

If your neck and back pain are very persistent, you’ll be offered a range of non-surgical and surgical procedures to alleviate it. What could cause this pain? Should you consider surgery? Mr Dimpu Bhagawati answers these questions and more. Read on to learn from a leading UK orthopaedic spinal surgeon about how your pain can be resolved.

The back of a man's neck. He is pressing his hand on it to alleviate pain.

Symptoms of pinched nerves in the neck

The symptoms of pinched nerves in the neck can manifest in two slightly different sets. This creates two groups of patients.

 

When pain originates from a nerve

In one group, pain in the neck (usually the back of the neck) radiates down one arm to the hand. This causes pain and discomfort, as well as a stinging sensation in some fingers (or in some people, the entire hand). When it gets worse, it can lead to weakness in the hand, resulting in a lack of grip and difficulty writing or holding things.

 

When pain originates from the spine

When the pain and pressure originate from the spinal cord itself, not only a nerve, the pain can manifest in both arms. This can also manifest as

  • Pain when walking a certain distance
  • Bowel or bladder problems
  • Balance problems and stumbling
  • Loss of dexterity in both hands

 

Who is more prone to neck and back pain from pinched nerves?

Anyone can have neck and back pain from pinched nerves. I have operated on patients from a wide range of ages; from people in their 20s or 30s to people in their 80s.

 

  1. In younger patients (in their 20s, 30s and 40s), severe neck and back pain is usually caused by a soft disc bulge which pushes on a nerve. This results in a strong and awful pain down the arm and often, it negatively impacts their work lives.
  2. In older patients, the cause is often the overall wear and tear process that comes with ageing. When this happens, the space for the nerves in the spinal cord is narrowed.

 

How can my neck and back pain be cured (non-surgical methods)?

Typically, I will first offer non-surgical treatments to patients. For many patients, the symptoms will last a short time (two to three months) and will settle. Therefore, the first conversations regarding treatment are based on providing patients with information and advice on all their options.

 

In these conversations, I aim to emphasize the value of non-operative procedures:

 

Spinal nerve injection is a day-case procedure and one that I frequently offer to early-stage neck and back pain patients. In this procedure, I put a needle right next to where the troublesome nerve is and inject local anaesthetic to calm inflammation. It’s quite a common procedure. Many patients choose this as an option and in most cases, they don’t need any further treatment.

 

When should surgical procedures be considered?

If a patient still experiences refractory pain (pain that cannot be controlled by usually effective methods), then we’ll suggest surgery with is a more aggressive approach.

 

What types of procedure are there?

Two surgical options for a pinched nerve are anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) and cervical disc replacement. These are invasive procedures that involve making an incision and moving tissue to get to the back of the neck. This is performed under general anaesthetic, so the patient isn’t awake. For an insight into the ACDF

 

For Mr Bhagawati’s detailed explanation on the anterior cervical discectomy and infusion procedure, click here.

 

Mr Dimpu Bhagawati has spent years helping patients with their neck and back pain and performed countless procedures. Visit his profile to discover how he can help you.

By Mr Dimpu Bhagawati
Orthopaedic surgery

Mr Dimpu Bhagawati is a highly esteemed orthopaedic and complex spinal surgeon, highly qualified in all modern spinal techniques, including minimally invasive spinal surgery, spinal deformity surgery, scoliosis, and back and spine problems children. He holds a private practice at 19 Harley Street, Princess Grace Hospital, Pinehill Hospital, Fitzwilliam Hospital, The Cobham Clinic and One Hatfield Hospital.

Mr Bhagawati qualified from the University of Oxford and University College London. He completed two internationally recognised complex spinal fellowships at Oxford University Hospitals and the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, London. He is on the Harvard Surgical Leadership Program with other leaders in Medicine from around the world. 

Along with his private practice, Mr Bhagawati is a consultant orthopaedic and spinal surgeon at Bedfordshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and currently organises services for the whole of Bedfordshire. He previously worked as a consultant at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. 

Mr Bhagawati has been at the forefront of cutting edge scientific advances in surgery at Oxford and London. He has published several scientific papers, some of which can be found in the European Spine Journal and the British Medical Journal.

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