Four Tests to Determine if You Have a Pinched Nerve in Your Neck

Four Tests to Determine if You Have a Pinched Nerve in Your Neck

If you have any of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from a pinched nerve:

  • Pain in the neck that radiates beyond your elbow or to your fingertips
  • Shoulder blade pain
  • Hand, arm, or shoulder weakness
  • Dull aches, numbness, or tingling
  • Pain aggravated by neck movements

If you have any of the aforementioned symptoms, administer this self-movement test to help you determine if a pinched nerve is the cause of your pain:

  1. Arm tension test:
    • First, perform this test on your non-painful arm to determine the natural range of comfortable motion.
    • Extend your non-painful arm directly in front of you, keeping your wrist straight and in-line with your arm.
    • Turn your wrist outward, so your palm is facing away from your body.
    • Extend your arm to the side as far as you can comfortably go. By the end of this movement, your position should look like the image below:
    • Try the same movement with your painful arm. By the time you extend your wrist, if you begin to feel increased symptoms on the path throughout the arm or in the neck, then stop. You have tested positive for arm tension.
    • If you still do not feel increased symptoms, then continue to extend your arm out to the side.
    • If you feel pain, numbness, or tingling in the arm as you extend it, and/or you cannot extend it as far as the non-painful arm, then you have tested positive for arm tension and should continue to the next test.
    • If you did not experience symptoms or limited range of motion throughout this test, then stop. It is likely that the source of your pain is not a pinched nerve.
  2. Neck compression test:
    • You should continue to this test if you tested positive for arm tension. Once again, you want to begin on your non-painful side to get a good baseline.
    • Tilt your head to the non-painful side (if your left side is your good side, then tilt your head to the left and vice versa).
    • Keeping your head titled, rotate your head outwards slightly, as if you were looking over your shoulder
    • Hold this position for 30-60 seconds.
    • Perform the same movement to the painful side
    • If you feel neck pain, pain or tingling that radiates down the arm, or numbness, then you have tested positive.
  3. Head turn test:
    • If you have tested positive for both tests so far, perform this test on your non-painful side first.
    • Turn your head to the non-painful side and hold it there for a few seconds. You should have full motion and no pain.
    • Turn your head to the painful side and hold it there for a few seconds. If you have limited motion or cannot turn your head as far on this side as you could on your non-painful side, then you have tested positive.

  4. Relief test:
    • For this test, you will want to see if relieving tension on the nerve will reduce your symptoms. You can do this by tilting your head AWAY from the painful side (similar to the compression test).
    • Use your non-painful arm to hold it there up to a minute
    • Ask yourself if this relieves your symptoms. Do you feel less numbness and tingling in the arm? Or warmth as if your arm is regaining sensation?

If you have tested positive for all four of these exercises, then it’s likely that a pinched nerve may be the source of your pain. If you tested positive, then you may be interested in these home remedies for nerve pain.

*As a reminder, always discuss any questions or concerns with your physician regarding your own health and dietary needs, as the information written should not replace any medical advice.