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Cervical Radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy is the clinical term for pain or neurological issues caused by anything that irritates a nerve in the cervical spine of the neck. Because the nerves in this area send signals to the muscles in the shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers, any irritation to the nerves can cause pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in these extremities.

Conditions that may cause nerve irritation resulting in cervical radiculopathy include:

  • Cervical herniated disc
  • Cervical spinal stenosis
  • Cervical degenerative disc disease

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms may come on suddenly or develop over time, and the type of pain or discomfort varies from slight tingling feelings to severe burning pain.

Common symptoms of cervical radiculopathy are:

  • Pain that may be dull, sharp, piercing, or burning in the neck, shoulders, arms, hands, and/or fingers
  • Tingling in hands and/or fingers
  • Numbness in hands and/or fingers
  • Weakness in the affected muscles
  • Increased pain when moving or rotating the neck

Diagnosis and Treatment

The spine specialists at the Kelsey-Seybold Spine Center will begin with a physical exam, feeling for any abnormalities or tenderness in the neck and checking the neck’s range of motion. They’ll also likely conduct a Spurling's test to see if compressing the cervical spine causes cervical radiculopathy symptoms to appear or become more severe. This test won't be performed if you're already showing signs of cervical myelopathy, or compression of the spinal cord.

If you aren’t yet experiencing neurological symptoms, such as numbness and weakness in your hands and fingers, nonsurgical treatments will likely be effective in controlling or alleviating your pain. The treatments that we may recommend include:

  • Activity changes (limiting strenuous activities, using better posture, etc.)
  • Physical therapy
  • Ice and/or heat therapy
  • Pain medications (anti-inflammatories, pain relievers, muscle relaxants)
  • Steroid injections
  • Chiropractic care
  • Massage

If nonsurgical treatments are unsuccessful because neurological symptoms and myelopathy are already present, our spine specialists may recommend one of these surgical methods:

  • Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, which removes any disc causing the nerve compression and fuses the cervical spine vertebrae together
  • Artificial disc replacement, which replaces the disc compressing the nerve

Neck pain could signal nerve irritation in the cervical spine. It's important to see a spine specialist if the pain lasts more than a few weeks to avoid cervical radiculopathy developing into neurological symptoms. At the Kelsey-Seybold Spine Center, we’ll diagnose the source of your neck pain and create a nonsurgical treatment plan to help alleviate your pain before the condition progresses. Make an appointment today.

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