Cervical radiculopathy is a fancy way to refer to a pinched nerve in your neck — and the results can be brutal. Fortunately, you can access our team of experts at CurePain, led by international pain management specialist Dr. David Wu.
In this blog, we pull back the curtains on this common pain condition and tell you how it’ll affect you and what you can expect from treatment.
Cervical radiculopathy: where it comes from and what it feels like
The best place to start with cervical radiculopathy is with an anatomy refresher.
Cervical radiculopathy is a condition that triggers neurological dysfunction caused by compression and inflammation of the nerve roots in your cervical spine. Your cervical spine is the part of your spine that makes up your neck (you may hear us refer to it as C1-C7 vertebrae).
Your vertebrae protect your spinal cord from injury with the help of small round structures called discs that provide cushion, flexibility, and shock absorption. The spinal cord is one of the main components of your central nervous system. It has the immense task of connecting the nerves in the rest of your body to your brain. All along your spinal cord are nerve roots, the initial nerve segment that branches off your spinal cord.
It’s in the nerve roots where compression and inflammation develop, leading to cervical radiculopathy.
Virtually anyone can get cervical radiculopathy, but it’s more common in adults. Cervical radiculopathy brought on by a herniated disc or disc degeneration is most common in people 50 and older. People in their 70s or older may get cervical radiculopathy due to arthritis.
Though it’s one of the primary complaints, cervical radiculopathy extends beyond neck pain. Because the nerves that extend from your cervical spine travel throughout your body, this condition can affect your shoulders, arms, chest, and back.
Typically, cervical radiculopathy only affects one side of your body, and your symptoms can include one or more of the following:
- Tingling or a pins and needles sensation
- Slow reflexes
Pain from cervical radiculopathy is usually sharp or burning. Moving your neck in certain ways (extending or straining it) can worsen the pain. You may notice that your pain decreases when you put your hands on your head, relieving the pressure on the affected nerve root.
It’s important to note that cervical radiculopathy affects everyone differently, so be sure to tell us about all of your symptoms.
Getting help for cervical radiculopathy
When you ask us about pain, numbness, and weakness coming from your neck, we start by conducting a few physical examinations. This usually involves checking your reflexes, discussing the details of your symptoms, comparing sensations on either side of your body, and asking you to perform certain arm and neck movements to recreate and/or relieve your symptoms.
Reaching a diagnosis can be tricky since many symptoms of cervical radiculopathy overlap with other neurological conditions, such as neuropathy. For that reason, we often turn to imaging tests (X-rays and MRIs) to get a complete understanding of your situation.
If we determine that you have cervical radiculopathy, we discuss your treatment options. Over 85% of cases resolve independently without treatment within a few months. Sometimes, we need to step in. In those cases, we recommend the following:
- Radiofrequency therapy (RFA)
- Physical therapy
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Corticoteroid injections
If you’re frustrated by lingering neck pain, don’t wait for it to disappear. Call or click to schedule an appointment at our Torrance, California office today.