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Definition

What is cervical radiculopathy?

Cervical radiculopathy is a disease with the damage or disturbance of nerve function that results if one of the nerve roots near the cervical vertebrae is compressed. Depending on where the damaged roots are located, damage to nerve roots in the cervical area can cause pain and the loss of sensation along the nerve’s pathway into the arm and hand.

How common is cervical radiculopathy?

This condition commonly affects both men and women. However, women seem to more easily experience cervical radiculopathy, especially over 50 years old.

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of cervical radiculopathy?

The primary signs and symptoms of cervical radiculopathy is pain that spreads into the arm, neck, chest, upper back, or shoulders. A person with radiculopathy may have muscle weakness, or numbness or tingling in fingers or hands. Other symptoms may include lack of coordination, especially in the hands.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes cervical radiculopathy?

As a result of too much pressure from material from a ruptured disc, degenerative changes in bones, arthritis or other injuries that are able to put pressure on the nerve roots, damage can occur. In middle-aged people, normal degenerative changes in the discs can cause pressure on nerve roots. In younger people, cervical radiculopathy tends to be the result of a ruptured disc due to trauma. This disc material then compresses or inflames the nerve root, causing pain.

A number of conditions may cause tissue to compress a nerve or nerves, including:

  • Injury
  • Poor posture
  • Rheumatoid or wrist arthritis
  • Stress from repetitive work
  • Hobbies or sports activities
  • Obesity

This pressure causes inflammation of the nerve and disrupts the nerve’s function. If a nerve is pinched for only a short time, there is usually no permanent damage. Once the pressure is relieved, nerve function will return to normal. However, if the pressure continues, chronic pain and permanent nerve damage can occur.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for cervical radiculopathy?

There are many risk factors for cervical radiculopathy, such as:

Posture

Poor posture adds pressure to your spine and nerves.

Sex

Women are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, possibly due to having smaller carpal tunnels.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis can compress nerves, especially in your joints.

Diabetes

People with diabetes are at higher risk of nerve compression.

Overuse

Jobs or hobbies that require repetitive hand, wrist or shoulder movements, such as assembly line work, increase your likelihood of a pinched nerve.

Obesity

Excess weight can add pressure to nerves.

Pregnancy

Water and weight gain associated with pregnancy can swell nerve pathways, compressing your nerves.

Heredity

Some people appear to be genetically predisposed to conditions that lead to pinched nerves.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is cervical radiculopathy diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. These tests may include:

Nerve conduction study

This test measures electrical nerve impulses and functioning in your muscles and nerves. A specialist places electrodes on your skin. The study measures the electrical impulses in your nerve signals when a small current passes through the nerve.

Electromyography

During an EMG, your doctor inserts a needle electrode through your skin into various muscles. The test evaluates the electrical activity of your muscles when they contract and when they are at rest.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

This test uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed views of your body in multiple planes.

How is cervical radiculopathy treated?

Cervical radiculopathy may be treated with a combination of pain medications such as corticosteroids, known as powerful anti-inflammatory drugs, or non-steroidal pain medication like ibuprofen or naproxen and physical therapy.

Steroids may be prescribed either orally or injected epidurally into the space above the dura, which is the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord.

Physical therapy might be recommended by your doctor. It includes gentle cervical traction and mobilization, exercises, and other modalities to reduce pain. If significant compression on the nerve exists to the extent that motor weakness results, surgery may be necessary to relieve the pressure.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage cervical radiculopathy?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with cervical radiculopathy:

  • Maintain good posture.
  • Incorporate strength and flexibility exercises into your regular exercise program.
  • Limit repetitive activities and take frequent breaks when engaging in these activities.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: August 10, 2017 | Last Modified: August 10, 2017

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