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How to Identify a Pinched Nerve in the Neck?

Pinched Nerve in the Neck

Identifying Pinched Nerve Symptoms

So, how do you know if you have a pinched nerve in your neck? Well, if you’re feeling numbness and tingling in specific fingers, such as the thumb, index finger, long finger, or half of your ring finger, it could be the median nerve affected. Similarly, numbness in your small finger and half of your ring finger could indicate compression of the ulnar nerve. These nerves originate in your neck, and travel down your shoulder, past your elbow, wrist, and into your hand.

If you’re experiencing a heaviness in your arm, a noticeable imbalance between your arms, or pain radiating down your arms, it might be a sign of a pinched nerve in your neck. Don’t ignore these symptoms, as early intervention is crucial.

Seeking Professional Guidance

You might be tempted to rush for an X-ray or MRI, but it’s not always necessary right away. Conservative treatments, such as those provided by occupational therapists or physical therapists, can be an effective first step. These professionals can evaluate your range of motion, identify muscle imbalances, and assess the overall health of your spine.

Holistic Approach to Assessment

As an occupational therapist, I take a holistic approach to evaluate your condition. I examine not only your neck but also your shoulders and the entire spine. By looking at how well your spine and shoulders are moving, I can pinpoint potential causes of nerve compression.

Collaborative Treatment

During the assessment, I also observe how the nerves are moving from your neck to your hands. By comparing both sides, we can identify any imbalances or irregularities. A skilled therapist can often bring about some positive changes in the first session. However, if there’s no improvement, your therapist may recommend consulting with a specialist.

Consulting with Specialists

Depending on the suspected issue, your therapist might recommend seeing different specialists. An orthopedic spine specialist or neurosurgeon can address bony issues in your cervical spine. For nerve-related problems, a neurologist may be recommended. If the issue appears to be more focused on your hands and arms, a hand surgeon might be the right choice.

Early Intervention Matters

Remember, the longer you wait, the worse your symptoms may become, potentially leading to more invasive treatments. If you suspect a pinched nerve, consulting with a trusted occupational therapist or physical therapist who understands the spine and its impact on the arms is crucial.


If you found this information helpful, please share this content. I can’t provide personalized medical advice, but I’m here to share knowledge that can guide you toward finding the help you need. Don’t wait until the symptoms worsen; take the first step toward relief today.

Hoang Tran is a Miami-certified hand therapist, the owner of Hands-on Therapy Services and the author of the book “The Hands-On Approach”. She loves helping people with hand, neck and shoulder problems because she knows how bad and debilitating they can get if not addressed and treated properly (once and for all!). 

Her occupational therapy practice aims to bring patients back to full functionality, without pills, injections or surgery. Occupational and Physical Therapy are both offered at Hands-On Therapy by our experienced therapists who provide a comprehensive approach to your care. 

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