Can Massage Help Relieve A Pinched Nerve In Your Neck?

A pinched nerve can be painful and debilitating, with the discomfort ranging from mild pins and needles to an impacted range of motion. According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Family Practice, about 85 out of every 100,000 adults in the U.S. each year develop cervical radiculopathy – also known as a pinched nerve — and those affected can potentially experience a loss of motor function and sensory loss as a result.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there is a wide range of treatments for a pinched nerve. These include avoiding activities that can aggravate the affected nerve, physical therapy, and taking medications such as Advil, Motrin, and Aleve. You can also speak to your doctor about other types of medication, such as gabapentin, nortriptyline, and corticosteroids. In more extreme cases, surgery, in which bone spurs or herniated disks are removed, may be required. However, before a pinched nerve reaches that critical point, a visit to a massage therapist may help put the problem on ice. 

Massage can ease muscle tension on the nerves

A pinched nerve forms when the nerve is compressed and the surrounding tissues impinge upon the nerve. A common cause is a herniated disk, but arthritis and spinal degeneration can also be to blame. In many cases, the pinched nerve will resolve itself in about four to six weeks, but there can be things that you can to do help mitigate the symptoms. A massage can be helpful because it can help to ease tension on the nerve, aid in circulation, and reduce inflammation. The American Massage Therapy Association maintains that massage is a viable aid for the relief of pain.

The biggest factor to consider when opting for a massage to address a pinched nerve is what is actually causing the condition. For example, a pinched nerve that is caused by a repetitive injury, such as running or skiing, could be well treated by a massage, as the condition could be caused by tightening of the muscles. A massage will help those muscles to relax, easing the tension on the nerve and hopefully helping you with your pain. If you have a pinched nerve caused by a herniated disk, a massage will not fix the problem, since massage therapy targets the body's soft tissues and not the bones. That said, a massage can be something to work into your overall recovery plan, as it can still help ease pinched nerve pain. 

A massage isn't always the answer

It's a good idea to discuss your condition with your doctor before opting to try any kind of massage therapy to manage your pinched nerve pain. Not every pinched nerve can be treated with a massage, and going to see a masseuse could actually make your symptoms worse. If your doctor gives you the green light, however, be sure that you also discuss with your massage therapist the type of massage you'd like to receive. A massage that is gentle but firm will work well to ease the tension in the muscles and relieve the pressure on the nerves. 

In addition to massage, there are other at-home treatments you can do to help manage the symptoms of pinched nerve pain. These treatments include elevating the legs to take pressure off the spine, alternating between heat packs and ice packs on the affected area, and doing daily gentle stretches or yoga. In addition, people who suffer from pinched nerves should consider lifestyle changes that can help not only alleviate current nerve pain but prevent future occurrences as well. Adding light exercise, such as walking or swimming, to your daily routine, as well as losing weight, will help to keep swelling and inflammation down and take some pressure off your overtaxed nerves.