Pinched Nerve in Neck 

Keywords; pinched nerve in neck, cervical facet syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome, neck pain and headache.

Do you spend long hours on the telephone? Or, do you regularly have to type on the computer, or write notes, whilst on the telephone. Raising your shoulder to hold the receiver against your ear is a common cause of pinched nerve in neck.

Just one look at the poor woman above will explain why she has neck pain and headache. The posture is so obviously gross. Whilst doing this for a few minutes a day is probably not a problem for a good neck, if you have had an injury, or whiplash to your neck, even a few minutes could bring on a headache. 

Strange as it may seem I still see many office workers holding their phones in this manner. It's a recipe for neck and arm pain. What's more it's not rocket science; this is the study of ergonomics. Making the workplace more friendly and less conducive to injury is not only in your interests; time off for illness hurts the boss too.

So don't feel embarrassed asking for assistance in getting your computer set up correctly; do your fingers point up or down on the keyboard for example?

Good posture at the office helps keep you out of pain and on the job; better than visiting the chiropractor for a pinched nerve in neck, eh? You'll have to pay for that. Mind you, if you can prove that not having a headset is the cause of your injury, then he will have to contribute.

Much better than all the stress is simply to have your office properly set up; less money too.

What about arm pain? A pinched nerve in neck may also cause pain and tingling in arms and hands which may be even more serious than the various neck syndromes and headache.

Irritation of the nerves supplying the arm is one of the common causes of the stubborn shoulder, elbow and hand syndromes like carpal tunnel syndrome that frequent your local chiropractor's office.

This simple test for a pinched nerve causing arm pain may be done at home, though the interpretation of the result may be difficult.

A headset costs little more than one chiropractic treatment. One of these will save you thousands of dollars; alas your chiropractor won't be able to go on that skiing holiday this year. Nor will the surgeon you may be consulting if you continue to hold this seriously abnormal posture.

I'm joking, of course, but I hope you get the drift; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And poor posture of one sort or another in the workplace is the cause of many of the nuggety problems we treat; if the cause remains, then we are only providing a chiropactic bandaid for the problem. Look to your computer station; think about your posture in the car or truck.

You can buy that headset here from Amazon.


Between the vertebrae are three main joints. A weight bearing disc, and two facets that control how far you can turn and twist your neck. Tilting the head to the side for long periods can trap a portion of the capsule causing severe cervical pain.

Because the foramen where the nerve exits from the spine lies just in front of the facet joint, any fixation and irritation can affect the nerve causing pinched nerve in the neck. 

Raising the shoulder is done in part by the scalene muscles, which also raise the first rib. This may entrap both the artery and the nerve bundles passing by on their way to the arm. This causes tingling and if prolonged pain and numbness in the upper extremity and especially the hand. 

The classic symptoms are a worsening of the pain and tingling in the arm on raising it above your head, as in hanging washing, and the loss of the radial pulse in the forearm in a difficult and subjective examination known as Adson's test.

I stated above that there are in the main three joints between vertebrae. In the neck there are two additional joints of Luschka. These are frequently injured in a whiplash type injury, particularly an accident from the side.

These little joints lie immediately adjacent to the foramen. Any arthritic enlargement of these joints threatens the nerve, particularly if the neck is in lateral flexion, as when you hold the receiver between your head and shoulder.


In the lower cervical spine there are an extra pair of joints that help to stabilise the neck further, and prevent a herniated disc from entering foramen where the nreve root emerges from the spine.

However, it is injured it grows arthritic spurs which they then invade the foramen; that's why we recommend that every whiplash is evaluated by your local chiropractor. And especially if you've been T-boned.



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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti-inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He is doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost pain-free. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily stroll has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift; he has a short leg.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. X-rays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65-year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88-year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done. 

10. Mr X is a 71-year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a few months ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he could not sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71-year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

Do you have a problem that is not getting better?

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Interesting questions from visitors

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Greetings, Dr B.

You helped me quite some time back with a soothing and professional response which turned out to be exactly correct. I now consult a local chiropractor. You write a superb newsletter, too.

Your own unresolved problem. Pose a question

Knowing that up to 70 percent of the time the correct diagnosis is made with no examination, no special tests, no xrays, but just from the history, there is a fair chance I can add some insight to your unresolved problem. But at least 30% of the time, I may be quite wrong. Give plenty of detail if you want a sensible reply.

You visited this chiropractic help site no doubt because you have a problem that is not resolving and want to know more about what a DC does.

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Brachial plexus

The brachial plexus of nerves that supply the arm.

Chiropractic first poster.
The inter scalene triangle through which the nerves to the arm must pass.
Diagram showing how the thoracic outlet can cause arm pain.
Thoracic outlet surgery is a very delicate business.

Arm pain

1. Shoulder

Shoulder pain.

Frozen Shoulder

A man with a frozen shoulder.

Rotator cuff

The muscles involved in a rotator cuff strain.

"My thumb, forefinger and middle finger went weak after cuff surgery."

"Hello John, I take it you've been back to the surgeon.

It's probably temporary inflammation of the median nerve, but of course could be worse... I'm afraid I don't think chiropractic has anything to offer at this stage.

Once everything has healed up, if you don't get the strength back, or your fingers remain numb and tingly, then I'd consult a local chiro to see if there is also a problem in your neck or the first rib.

Dr B"

Letter from reader looking for advice.

Rotator cuff surgery.

2. Elbow

Path of the radial nerve.

Elbow pain

The tennis elbow muscles.

3. Wrist

The median nerve entrapment sites.
Diagram showing how the pronator teres muscle can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.

How bad is your arm shoulder hand pain?