Cervical Radiculopathy: What You Need to Know
Beneficial Information on Cervical Radiculopathy: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Cervical nerves exit the seven cervical vertebrae designated as C1 to C7 and branch out to the muscles. This allows the fingers, hands, arms and shoulders to function while the skin and muscles detect sensations (i.e., hot and cold, rough and smooth). When these nerves are inflamed, irritated and injured in any way, this results in cervical radiculopathy – the clinical description for several neurological symptoms caused by nerve damage in the cervical vertebrae.
Certain types of pressure on the nerve roots can cause damage, such as:
Herniated disc. This occurs when the disc leaks out from the vertebrae, which causes inflammation or injury on the adjacent nerve.
Spinal stenosis. This involves the tightening of the space in the spinal canal, which is often part of a chronic degenerative process.
Degenerative disc disease. The cervical spine degenerates with old age or disease (i.e., arthritis), which results in a pinched nerve.
Tumors, sarcoidosis and fractures can also impinge on the cervical nerve roots.
Thus, cervical radiculopathy may be a result of either an injury or an infection on the cervical spine. Athletes, individuals engaged in repetitive motions involving the neck and its surrounding areas, and persons with awkward neck positions while sleeping, working and playing are more prone to this health issue.
The medical condition has several symptoms that vary in intensity, duration and frequency depending on the location, number and type of damage to the cervical nerves. These symptoms include: (Take note that these are general symptoms)
- Pain that starts at the neck, and then radiates to the arm, chest, upper back and/or shoulders. This type of pain may be dull or sharp coupled with a burning sensation
- Muscle weakness, numbness or tingling in the hands and fingers (i.e., pins and needles sensation)
- Lack of functional coordination especially in the hands
- Increase in pain when doing certain neck movements like bending or rotating while a decrease in pain may be experienced when a hand is placed on the back of the head
The designation for cervical radiculopathy will depend on the location of the affected nerve. For example, a doctor will designate neck pain as C6 radiculopathy when the C6 vertebra is affected.
The specific symptoms will depend on the location of the nerve. Below are some examples:
- C7 radiculopathy – Pain and/or muscle weakness from the neck to the hand including the triceps and the middle finger.
- C5 radiculopathy – Pain and/or muscle weakness from the shoulders including the shoulder blades to the upper arms.
- C6 radiculopathy – Pain and/or muscle weakness from the biceps to the index finger and thumb.
Doctors use several diagnostic tools to identify the specific cervical vertebrae affected. The information will be used to plan the best treatment program including the injection site for any cervical epidural steroid injections. Cervical radiculopathy is generally treatable with a combination of:
- Pain medications including corticosteroids and/or non-steroidal pain medication to lessen the inflammation and to alleviate the pain. The steroids may either be administered orally or injected epidurally.
- Physical therapy (including exercises and cervical traction) will also assist in alleviating neck pain.
Surgery is necessary in only a few cases of cervical radiculopathy. However, extensive conservative measures are sufficient in most cases. Please call 888-719-8448 for more information on how Healthpointe can help. You can also walk in to any of our locations such as, Garden Grove by Stanton, Santa Ana, Westminster.
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