Nerves that travel out to the arms, shoulder and hands first pass through the cervical spine. The cervical spine is a group of vertebrae located on the neck. These are smaller, more delicate vertebrae than the ones lower in the spine.
These nerves supply electrical signals and sensation. When a nerve becomes pinched in the cervical spine either by a bone spur or an intervertebral disc, problems develop in the nerve and it no longer functions properly. This condition is called cervical radiculopathy.
Common symptoms of cervical radiculopathy are weakness, numbness, and pain. Although the source of the problem is located in the neck, the symptoms of the condition will be found towards the arm where the nerve reaches. The reflexes also may be affected.
Another symptom of cervical radiculopathy is occipital headaches (headaches which originate in the back of the head and neck which is called the "occiput"). An MRI may be required to expose any irregular soft tissue areas around the spine. An MRI is also useful in showing the nerves, discs, and bones of the spine.
Treatment for cervical radiculopathy may include physical therapy consisting of gentle exercises to reduce pain. If traditional therapy fails to relieve the pain, surgery may be required to relieve the pressure. A combination of pain medications may also be necessary in treating cervical radiculopathy.
Cervical radiculopathy refers to nerve impingement that occurs in the neck, or cervical region. The impingement can occur for a number of reasons, such as disc degeneration, disc herniation, bone spurs, and trauma.
Treatment of cervical radiculopathy is generally conservative, using methods such as medication, physical therapy, and immobilization to decrease pain. In extreme cases, surgery may be necessary to remove bone spurs, parts of the disc, or to free impinged nerves. Spinal fusion can be performed for this condition, but it is commonly avoided due to the lack of mobility it creates in the cervical region.
At BASIC Spine, we are often called upon to treat cases of neck pain, and a great majority of those cases arise from cervical radiculopathy.
We have the professionals on hand to treat the condition conservatively with measures such as pain medication and physical therapy. However, we also have spinal surgeons in our practice that can perform the delicate surgeries that are indicated for this condition.
Cervical radiculopathy can be caused by anything that impinges on the nerves that run close to the spine in the neck. Disc herniation is a common cause of radiculopathy because it involves the disc protruding and pushing against nerves.
Spinal stenosis is another common cause due to narrowing of the spinal canal and pressing on the spinal cord. You can also have radiculopathy due to trauma, such as a broken vertebrae or torn nerves.
One of the most common and pervasive causes of radiculopathy is the degeneration of age. As you age, the discs lose water, and this causes them to lose height. When they lose height, the vertebrae can compress nerves that come off the spinal cord. In addition, the wear and tear on the joints can cause the body to interpret the area as a weakness. In response, it forms bone tissue along the edge of the vertebra to build it up, but these outcroppings, or bone spurs, can impinge on nerves themselves.
This condition usually causes pain in the arm and hand on the affected side, and the pain is generally described as sharp. In fact, you may have other sensations in your arms and neck besides pain.
You may feel pins and needles, tingling, or complete numbness, depending on the severity of the radiculopathy. Some patients experience an electric shock pain or a pain that shoots down the arm.
You may have trouble using your arm and hand, as well. If one of the motor nerves is impinged, you may experience weakness in your hand and difficulty extending the arm. One of the subtle symptoms of radiculopathy is pain upon particular movements.
For instance, turning your neck a certain way or extending your arm can cause the pain of the radiculopathy. This may indicate a partial impingement of the nerve, and it is significant in treatment.
Treatment for cervical radiculopathy is usually conservative because surgery can be difficult and unsuccessful. Physical therapy is an important component in recovery from this condition because it will allow the muscles of the neck the ability to support the diseased discs.
In addition, soft immobilization collars may provide much needed rest for the muscles and ligaments of the neck. Medication and injections are important, as well. Medications from NSAIDs to narcotics are often helpful in controlling pain.
Injections insert pain medication directly into the area of the radiculopathy, and they are gaining more usage as research proves them effective.
Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion removes the diseased disc and grafts a bone on the two adjacent vertebrae to reduce movement and pain. The graft is usually taken from the top of the pelvis, and sometimes screws and pins are used along the anterior portion of the cervical spine to provide stability. In posterior cervical laminoforaminotomy, the spine is approached from the back and only parts of the diseased disc are removed.
This avoids the immobilization of a spinal fusion, but this procedure is not recommended for all patients. Finally, artificial disc replacement is a newer procedure for cervical radiculopathy, and more research is needed before it becomes a common surgery.
At BASIC Spine, we know that neck pain can come in a variety of symptom spectrums. We have the expertise to properly diagnose your condition and recommend the most efficient treatments.
Our philosophy centers around using the least invasive methods first, and we have the medical professionals to assist you with physical therapy, chiropractic, and pain medications.
- Back Pain
- Brachial Plexus Injuries
- Cervical Radiculopathy
- Lumbar Radiculopathy
- Compression Fractures
- Degenerative Disc Disease (Cervical and Lumbar)
- Facet Joint Syndrome
- Failed Back or Neck Syndrome
- Herniated Disc
- Lower back pain
- Nerve Impingement
- Spinal Infection
- Spinal Canal Stenosis (Cervical and Lumbar)
- Spinal Cord Compression
- Spina Bifida
- Cervical Neck Pain
- Lumbar Back Pain
- Lumbar Disc Herniation
- Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)
- Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF)
- Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)
- Artificial Disc Replacement
- Endoscopic Spine Surgery
- Posterior Cervical Foraminotomy
- Micro Endoscopic Lumbar Discectomy
- Micro Endoscopic Cervical Discectomy
- Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion (XLIF®)
- Interlaminar Lumbar Instrumented Fusion (ILIF™)
- Facet Joint Injections
- Pain Pumps
- Spinal Cord Implants
- MILD Procedure (Minimally Invasive Lumbar Decompression)
- Ultra Minimally Invasive Endoscopic Spinal Surgery