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Nerve Impingement (Cervical Radiculopathy)

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  • What is Cervical Radiculopathy?

    Cervical radiculopathy is a condition in which injury that occurs near the root of a nerve located between the cervical vertebrae (in the neck) causes pain, weakness or numbness in other locations along the nerve pathway, such as the arm, shoulder, hand, wrist or fingers.  Symptoms result from pressure that is exerted on the root of the nerve due to the nerve being compressed by the surrounding cervical discs.

    What causes Cervical Radiculopathy?

    Any situation which exerts pressure on, compresses, or pinches a nerve located between the cervical vertebrae can cause the symptoms associated with cervical radiculopathy.  This includes conditions such as spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, or a herniated cervical disc, and can also be the result of a trauma or injury to the neck. 

    What are the symptoms of Cervical Radiculopathy?

    The symptoms of cervical radiculopathy include pain, numbness, weakness, and muscle spasms that can be felt in the shoulder, arm, wrist, hands or fingers and are usually triggered by movement of the neck.  Pain can range from a dull ache to a severe or burning sensation, and in some cases the pain is extreme enough that it limits mobility.

    How is Cervical Radiculopathy diagnosed?

    A medical professional will take a complete medical history and perform a physical and neurological exam.  The doctor will ask the patient about the symptoms they are having, when the pain started, where it is located, and what increases or decreases the symptoms.  The patient may be asked to move his or her neck or arms to display what movements cause pain and when it disappears.  An x-ray, CT scan, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or EMG (electromyography) may be ordered to rule out other causes of pain and to determine the exact location and extent of the injury to the nerve.

    When should I seek care for Cervical Radiculopathy?

    You should seek medical attention if you experience any type of severe pain in your neck, pain that radiates down your arm, or any type of numbness, tingling or weakness.  A thorough medical evaluation is required to determine the cause of the symptoms and the extent of the injury.  These symptoms can be the result of other medical conditions, some of which are severe.  Even if your symptoms are not severe, you should seek a doctor’s advice if a period of rest and over the counter pain medications does not improve your symptoms after a short time.

    What will the treatment for Cervical Radiculopathy consist of?

    The first course of treatment for cervical radiculopathy is typically a short period of rest aimed at relieving irritation on the cervical nerves.  This may include limiting normal activities or wearing a soft neck collar.  Pain and anti-inflammatory medications may also be recommended.  After a short period of rest, nyc physical therapy is often recommended and may include stretching exercises, heat and cold therapy, and electrical stimulation, among other methods.  If conservative methods fail to bring relief, steroid injections or surgery may be recommended.  Surgery is typically a last resort option and is only considered if other treatment methods do not alleviate the pain and discomfort after a few months.

    Which muscle groups/ joints are commonly affected by Cervical Radiculopathy?

    Cervical radiculopathy originates in the nerves between the cervical vertebrae, located in the neck.  Symptoms, however, are experienced in the shoulder, arm, wrist, hand and fingers.

    What type of results should I expect from the treatment of Cervical Radiculopathy?

    Most individuals will be successful in alleviating their symptoms of pain, weakness, numbness and muscle spasms with a short period of rest, followed by a regimen of physical therapy.  Recovery may take up to twelve weeks or more, however, depending on the severity of the impingement.  When surgery is warranted, it is typically successful in diminishing pain and improving functioning of the affected areas.