A trapped nerve is a common injury that many like yourself will have or currently experience. If you have a trapped nerve (nerve compression) your body may send you warning signals such as pain or numbness.

Damage from a pinched nerve may be minor or severe. It may cause temporary or long-lasting problems. The earlier you get a diagnosis and treatment for nerve compression, the more quickly you’ll find relief. Severe cases require medical care. But if your symptoms are mild and relatively new, you can fix this following a series of stretching and strengthening exercises.

Often a trapped nerve during exercise may be due to improper technique and a restricted joint movement that puts greater stress on another region of the body, or overloaded repetitive stress to the body.

What is a upper limb trapped nerve?

You can get a pinched nerve in different parts of the spine, including your neck, or thoracic spine (mid-back region). A pinched nerve in the neck can cause radiculopathy. Symptoms of radiculopathy can include numbness, tingling, weakness, and pain in the arm.

This happens because of sudden lifting, twisting, or bending that catches the nerve or repetitive movements with a “poor posture” that leads to a compression of the nerve. With nerve compression, sometimes pain may be your only symptom. Or you may have other symptoms without pain. These are some of the more common symptoms of compressed nerves:

  • Pain in the area of compressions, such as the neck or arm
  • Radiating pain
  • Numbness or tingling
  • “Pins and needles” or a burning sensation
  • Weakness, especially with certain activities
  • Sometimes symptoms worsen when you try certain movements, such as turning your head or straining your neck.

What causes trapped nerve?

A trapped nerve occurs when there is “compression” (pressure) on a nerve. The pressure may be the result of repetitive motions. Or it may happen from holding your body in one position for long periods.

Nerves are most vulnerable at places in your body where they travel through narrow spaces but have little soft tissue to protect them. Nerve compression often occurs when the nerve is pressed between tissues such as:

  • Ligament
  • Tendon
  • Bone

For example, inflammation or pressure on a nerve root exiting the spine may cause neck pain. It may also cause pain to radiate from the neck into the shoulder and arm (cervical radiculopathy). These symptoms may result from changes that develop in the spine’s discs and bones. For example, if a disc protrudes — known as a herniated or bulging disc — pressure can get put on a spinal nerve.

Nerve compression in your neck or arm may also cause symptoms in areas such as your:

  • Shoulder
  • Neck
  • Elbow
  • Hand
  • Wrist
  • Fingers

If nerve compression lasts a long time, a protective barrier around the nerve may break down. Fluid may build up, which may cause:

  • Swelling
  • Extra pressure
  • Scarring

The scarring may interfere with the nerve’s function which must be treated as soon as possible.

How can this impact movement and being able to move and train optimally?

Compression on the nerve can negatively impact strength, sensation that may carry over to poor awareness that could lead to poor technique and posture within the gym and the ability to achieve your potential whether this is at work or whilst training.

How to treat trapped nerve

How long it takes for symptoms to relieve can vary from person to person. With this, the appropriate treatment varies, depending on the severity and cause of the nerve compression. You may find that you benefit greatly from simply resting the injured area and avoiding any activities that tend to worsen your symptoms. If symptoms persist or pain is severe, see your doctor or a relevant health practitioner such as a sports therapist or a physiotherapist.

Nonetheless, the physiotherapy style of rehabilitation has the best results when it comes to solving this type of injury. If you or you know someone with this type of injury, take a look and include these into your rehabilitation:

Strengthening Exercise


Nerve Glides

Other ways to treat and prevent trapped nerves.

  • Having a regular massage or foam rolling will reduce tightness and pain associated with anterior pelvic tilt.
  • Avoid doing things that provoke pain associated with a trapped nerve so modifying your routine, taking regular breaks from work will help relieve symptoms.
  • NSAIDs. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen may reduce swelling.
  • Steroid injections. These injections may reduce swelling and allow inflamed nerves to recover.
  • Splint. A splint or limits motion and allows muscles to rest for brief periods.
  • Surgery. Surgery may be needed for more severe problems that don’t respond to other types of treatment.

Take-Home Message

If you have a trapped nerve in the neck, these exercises can provide relief. They will help decompress the nerve and loosen tight muscles.

Do these stretches and glides gently and carefully. If you feel pain or discomfort, do not force it. A physical therapist can show you the best moves for your symptoms.If your symptoms are severe or don’t go away, seek medical attention. If you are struggling to progress with this injury, we have space for you within our online coaching platform in which one of our therapists will take you through an injury assessment and consultation to understand the problematic issues and work with you to build a programme that works around your lifestyle to ensure you get back to moving more, pain-free.

Simply head to the booking calendar HERE to book your consultation now.

Don’t forget to head to our social media platforms to keep up to date with weekly free rehabilitation techniques and exercises to allow you to get back to training pain-free.

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