A pinched nerve in the neck is a condition in which the nerves have become injured in some way. The injury can be as minor as having slept wrong the night before, or the compression of the nerves can stem from degenerative disk disease or other serious medical conditions. People who have a pinched nerve in the neck may feel pain along the nerve path in their neck and down one or both of the arms. Tingling and numbness are also symptoms of a pinched nerve. Early stages of a pinched nerve--pain that has just begun or is not severe--can be treated with self-care measures. Persistent or debilitating pain may require physical therapy or even surgery to correct.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke recommends rest as the main self-treatment method for a pinched nerve. Certain activities in your everyday routine may aggravate the pain in your neck or arms; take a break from these tasks to allow the nerve irritation to subside. Some people may notice a permanent reduction of their pain after a few days of limited activities.
Over-the-counter medications to reduce inflammation and provide relief may be able to control the pain in your neck and arms. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen are medications known as NSAIDs--non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs--and do not require a doctor's prescription. Use the medications only as directed to avoid possible complications such as stomach irritation.
The pain resulting from a pinched nerve may respond to either icing or heat therapy. Inflammation and swelling may decrease when a cold pack is applied to the area that is painful. Heat therapy may help the neck muscles relax; tension in the neck may contribute to the pain experienced from the pinched nerve. Hot or cold compresses may result in temporary relief in some people, but not everyone will feel the benefits.