Cervical Radiculopathy

Are you suffering from unreasonable pain in your arm? Do you have a tingling feeling in your fingers?

What is Cervical Radiculopathy?

Most of the time, pain or a tingling feeling in the arms or fingers are considered to be temporary. We ignore them and move on. But as the pain starts to radiate to other parts, we understand the seriousness of the problem. When it comes to health, ignorance is dangerous. This unexplained pain at the chest, neck, arms, shoulder and upper back is a sign of Cervical Radiculopathy.

Cervical Radiculopathy, also called pinched nerve is the inflammation of a nerve root in your cervical spine. The damage to your nerve results in a change in neurological function. It causes deficits such as altered reflexes, numbness, weakness that radiates from your neck to the shoulder, arm, hand or fingers. The damage to your nerves could be caused by a ruptured disc, arthritis, degenerative changes in your bones and any injury that puts pressure on the nerve roots. The pain caused by pinched nerves can range from achy to shock-like or give you a burning sensation. It can also cause a pins and needles tingling feeling and pain that radiates down to the arm.

Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Radiculopathy

The most common symptoms of cervical radiculopathy are:

  • Pain that spreads from your neck to the shoulders/upper back, arm, fingers and chest.
  • Muscle weakness, numbness or tingling feeling in your fingers or hands.
  • Lack of coordination, especially in your hands.

The signs and symptoms of cervical radiculopathy vary widely depending on which nerve root is affected. The symptoms by location on the spine are:

  • C5 radiculopathy: The symptoms include tingling, numbness, pain from your neck to the shoulders, arms, and thumbs, and/or weakness in your shoulders and upper arm.  
  • C6 radiculopathy: Tingling, numbness, and pain that radiates to your index finger. Weakness in the front of your upper arm and wrist.
  • C7 radiculopathy: Tingling, numbness, and pain that is felt down to your middle finger. Weakness felt to the back of your upper arm.
  • C8 radiculopathy: Tingling, numbness, and pain that radiates to your little finger and you experience reduced hand grip strength.

The less common symptom is the C4 radiculopathy that results in inflammation or nerve compression at multiple levels.

What is the Recommended Treatment for Cervical Radiculopathy?

In most cases, cervical radiculopathy gets better over time and do not need treatment. But if it does not improve, evaluation and treatment are required.

At The Pain, Spine and Sports Institute, the non-surgical treatments include physical therapy that concentrate in gentle cervical traction, mobilization and exercises. Dr. Rehan Ali may recommend medications, steroids or a soft cervical collar. You can also try ice and heat therapy, you can make changes in your day to day activities and rest. Many people find relief with a combination of treatments.

Cervical Epidural Steroid Injections

If a disorder exists in your cervical spine, this can lead to pain that radiates down your arms and even through your shoulders. If this describes what you are experiencing, then an epidural steroid injection may be a valid temporary solution for you.

If the cervical nerves are pinched or disturbed in any way, it is likely you may feel pain along any one of your nerve channels. An epidural steroid injection can help to treat pain provoked by inflammation or irritation to the nerves branching out from the spine away from the vertebrae.

Dr. Ali will inject a cortisone steroid solution. This injection is meant to alleviate any inflammation which results in decreasing your nerve pain.

What are the Risk Factors for Cervical Radiculopathy?

Factors that may elevate the risk for developing cervical radiculopathy include the following:

Activities that place high levels of stress or shock on the spine, such as, heavy lifting, contact sports or other similar strenuous activities.

Your age. As one grows older, so does the risk for developing cervical radiculopathy. Certain studies have found that this risk peaks when a person is between the ages of 40 to 50.

Movements of the neck or vibrations that are repetitive in nature, such as operating vibrating equipment, or activities where the head or neck is exposed to impact, such as diving, etc.

Patients who have previously suffered from lumbar radiculopathy are also at higher risk for developing cervical radiculopathy.

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