Cervical Radiculopathy is the clinical description of pain and neurological symptoms from any type of condition that irritates a nerve in the cervical spine (neck). This is commonly known as “pinched nerve” and it is caused by injury to the root of a spinal nerve. It is characterized by neck pain that radiates into the shoulder and arm. As we As we grow older, the spinal discs bulge and lose height. The vertebrae come closer and the disc collapses forming bone spurs. In this process, the bone spurs make the foramen narrow and pinch the root of the nerve. If these changes are caused as a process of aging, the condition may be referred as arthritis or spondylosis.
The pain caused by this condition is sharp and may even be felt as a “pins and needles” sensation or even complete numbness. It may worsen with extending the neck or turning the head. The diagnostic tests your doctor may advise include X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and electromyelography.
Cervical radiculopathy treatment options are varied. Often, cervical radiculopathy is treated by nonsurgical treatment methods such as use of:
- Soft Collars: Soft Collars allow the muscles of the neck to rest and limit neck motion. This can help decrease pinching of nerve roots with movement. These collars can be helpful but it is important to only wear them for short periods of time as they will decrease the strength of the muscles in the neck.
- Physical Therapy: Physical Therapy can help with neck muscle stretching and strengthening. Sometimes, traction is also prescribed.
- Pain medications, or Steroidal injections injected into spine are an alternate form of cervical radiculopathy treatment options. These are used to help reduce nerve swelling and relieve the pain enough to allow the nerve to recover with more time.
It is important to note that the majority of patients with cervical radiculopathy get better with time and never need surgery. If the conservative Cervical radiculopathy treatment options are a failure or if the condition is severe then your doctor may recommend surgical treatment. Surgery is done in order to create more space for the compressed nerves, to maintain stability of the spine and to provide proper alignment to the spine.
Procedures that can be done usually for cervical radiculopathy include.
- Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion
- Posterior cervical laminoforaminotomy