Cervical radiculopathy occurs when the nerve roots located in the cervical spine are damaged or disturbed due to compression or impingement. The resulting damage causes pain in the neck and arm, as well as decreased sensation/numbness – radiating throughout the upper extremity, following the pathway of the problematic nerve.
Cervical radiculopathy is often accompanied by impaired functioning in the neck and upper extremities, including the shoulders, arms and hands. Degenerative changes in the spine, arthritis and injuries that put pressure on the nerve roots, as well as herniated discs, are all common causes of cervical radiculopathy. As the disc degenerates, increased pressure to the spinal cord and nerve root causes pinching, also known as spinal stenosis. Trauma tends to be the main cause of cervical radiculopathy in younger populations- mainly due to ruptured discs. In this situation, the nerve root is suddenly compressed because of excess pressure from the leaking disc material.
The main symptom of cervical radiculopathy includes pain that radiates throughout the cervical region, upper extremity, chest, and upper back. The person is likely to also experience numbness and tingling in the hands/fingers. Additionally, decreased coordination may be apparent, including difficulty grasping and holding items.
Treatment of cervical radiculopathy includes pain medication, ranging from ibuprofen to corticosteroids. Physical therapy may involve mobilization, exercises, and traction to release the pressure on the nerve. In severe situations that involve motor weakness, surgery may be required to decrease/remove pressure that is placed on the nerve.