What is cervical radiculopathy?
- Cervical radiculopathy is the clinical description of when a nerve root in the cervical spine becomes inflamed or damaged, resulting in a change in neurological function. Patients are prone to neurological deficits, such as numbness, tingling, weakness, or pain radiating from the neck into the shoulder, arm, hand, or fingers. The pain associated with cervical radiculopathy can vary widely, from a dull ache in some patients to an electrical shock or burning sensation in others. The distribution of symptoms can also vary, based on which nerve is affected and which part of the body each nerve is responsible for.
What causes cervical radiculopathy?
- Two of the most common causes of cervical radiculopathy include:
- Cervical foraminal stenosis, which means that the opening (foramen) where the nerve root exits the spinal canal has become narrow, allowing less space for the nerve root to exit and possibly leading to the nerve becoming impinged. Osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease can result in bone spurs developing in the foramen to cause narrowing, while thickened spinal ligaments or bulging discs may worsen the narrowing even further.
- Cervical herniated discs cause cervical radiculopathy when the inner material of the disc leaks out and inflames or impinges a nearby spinal nerve. Herniated discs are likely to occur as a result of strenuous activity, which is why this is a more common cause of cervical radiculopathy in younger patients in their 20s or 30s.
- Less common causes of cervical radiculopathy are fractures, tumors, infections, or scar tissue development.
- Risk factors for cervical radiculopathy are:
- Age – Risk for cervical radiculopathy tends to increase with age, with a peak risk being in a patient’s 40s and 50s.
- Strenuous activities – High stress levels placed on the spine increase the risk of developing cervical radiculopathy. Sports such as wrestling, football, or weight-lifting are especially risky activities.
- Repetitive neck motions or vibrations – Activities such as driving a truck (vibrating equipment) or repeatedly diving head-first into a pool are likely to increase risk of cervical radiculopathy.
How is cervical radiculopathy diagnosed?
- To ensure an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment, it is best for patients to seek evaluation by a specialist, such as our physicians at Remedy Pain Solutions. Your encounter with the physician will likely consist of several steps which may be recommended to make the most accurate diagnosis, including:
- History – patients will speak to a physician about current signs and symptoms, prior illnesses or conditions, previous injuries, and their lifestyle
- Physical exam – the neck is observed, palpated for abnormalities or tenderness, range of motion is demonstrated, strength is demonstrated, sensation and reflexes are tested throughout the arms, and other physical examinations can be performed to further support cervical radiculopathy
- Imaging studies – to evaluate the anatomy of the spine and surrounding structures, an X-ray, MRI, or CT may be ordered by your physician
- Electrodiagnostic testing – these types of tests, such as Electromyography (EMG) or Nerve Conduction Studies (NCS), evaluate how well the nerves are functioning
How is cervical radiculopathy treated?
- Our physicians at Remedy Pain Solutions are expertly trained in treating cervical radiculopathy non-surgically. Some of the most common treatments offered for cervical radiculopathy are:
- Rest or activity modification
- Physical therapy
- Ice/heat therapy
- Cervical epidural steroid injections
- Manual manipulation
- Cervical traction
- Surgical intervention
- If you or somebody you know is suffering with the symptoms of cervical radiculopathy, contact Remedy Pain Solutions to schedule an appointment today.