Cervical Radiculopathy: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment in Dallas & Mansfield, TX is a condition whereby one of the nerve roots in the cervical spine becomes inflamed, compressed, or damaged which results in a change in neurological function.
The cervical nerves are the nerves in the cervical vertebrae that are located in the cervical segment of the spinal cord. The cervical nerves provide sensations and motor functions to the upper part of the body including the shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers.
This damage to a nerve root in the cervical spine can cause pain, loss of sensation, or weakness along the nerve’s pathway that may radiate into the shoulder, arm, hand, or fingers depending on the location of the damaged nerve root.
Cervical radiculopathy is a rare condition. It occurs slightly more in men than women. It occurs more in older people than in younger people. This is due to spinal degeneration that occurs more in older people.
Causes of Cervical Radiculopathy
- A nearby bone spur can damage or inflame a nerve root
- A nearby cervical herniated disc can exert pressure on the nerve root
- Overtime spinal degeneration or degenerative changes in bones
- Injuries to the nerve root or Trauma
- Chemical processes related to inflammation can cause damage to the nerve root
Symptoms of Cervical Radiculopathy
The signs and symptoms of cervical radiculopathy differ depending on the location of the nerve root that is affected. The signs and symptoms that you may experience include:
Tingling, numbness or reduced sensation in the skin around your neck shoulder, arm, hand, and/or fingers
Weakness or reduced coordination in one or more muscles in your neck, shoulder, arm, hand, and/or fingers
Pain that ranges from a dull, achiness to a sharp, shock-like or burning pain that may be felt anywhere from your neck down to your arm and fingers.
Changes in your body’s involuntary reflex responses such as reduced ability to respond when your skin touches hot or cold substances or a reduced triceps or biceps reflex.
Reduced ability to perform daily routine tasks, such as gripping or lifting objects, writing, typing, or getting dressed due to muscle weakness.
Diagnosis of Cervical Radiculopathy
During diagnosis, your doctor will review your medical history and conduct a physical examination. Your doctor will ask about the signs and symptoms that you are experiencing. Your doctor may also ask you about any previous or current illnesses, conditions, or injuries. Your doctor may also ask questions about your family history and lifestyle. All this information helps your doctor to know the root cause of your problem.
If your case is severe or complicated, imaging tests and more advanced diagnostic processes may be conducted so that your doctor can ascertain the exact cause of your cervical radiculopathy.
The tests include:
Imaging tests such as MRI, x-ray, or CT scan may be conducted to show how a cervical herniated disc or bone spur is affecting or damaging a nerve root.
Spurling’s test is done so that your doctor can see if compressing the cervical spine will reproduce or temporarily worsen your symptoms.
During the test, you will be asked to bend your head to the side where you feel the symptoms. Your doctor will gently apply pressure to the top of your head. When the pressure is applied, the cervical foramen (bony openings in your spine where nerve roots are) will compress and narrow. This may have the same effect of a compressing nerve root and you may experience the symptoms that you have been experiencing.
If you experience the symptoms, it likely means that you have cervical radiculopathy. In some cases, you may not experience the symptoms that you have been experiencing but this doesn’t entirely mean that you don’t have cervical radiculopathy.
Electrodiagnostic testing is done to check how the nerves are functioning.
The two types of electrodiagnostic tests include:
Electromyography (EMG): This test checks the nerve and muscle function and the communication between the nerve and muscle fibers by monitoring the electrical activity in the muscle.
Nerve conduction studies (NCS): This test is done to check if the nerves are sending signals at an appropriate speed.
Treatment of Cervical Radiculopathy
The treatment for cervical radiculopathy depends on the underlying cause of cervical radiculopathy and the severity of your symptoms. A combination of different treatments may provide better results.
Treatment options include:
Resting and avoiding strenuous activities and sports can help relieve pain. Sitting and sleeping appropriately can help provide relief.
Applying Ice and heat
Placing ice packs wrapped in a towel on the skin around the pain area can help reduce pain and swelling. You can do this for 15-20 minutes at a time several times in a day.
You can also place heated pads on the pain area to relieve pain. You can also do this for 15-20 minutes at a time several times daily.
Taking over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help to relieve pain and inflammation.
Your doctor may prescribe stronger medications such as prescription NSAIDs, muscle relaxants, or opioids if there are no improvements in your symptoms after using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs.
There are certain stretching and strengthening exercises that you can engage in to strengthen and improve flexibility in your neck and back. You can ask your doctor to recommend a certified physical therapist that will help you through the exercise.
Cervical epidural steroid injection
A cervical epidural steroid injection may be injected into the cervical spine’s epidural space to numb the affected nerve root to prevent pain and inflammation.
Cervical traction is done to increase the space between the cervical vertebrae where the nerve roots pass. Increasing the space may provide pain relief.
Manual manipulation of the cervical spine is done to improve mobility and facilitate healing. Manual manipulation is done by a chiropractor or any other qualified health professional. The cervical spine is manually adjusted to improve mobility and facilitate healing.
If other conservative treatments have failed to improve your condition after 6 to 12 weeks, surgery may be considered.
Surgical options include:
Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion
This surgery involves the removal of the herniated or damaged disc causing the pain and then fusing that level of the cervical spine to restore normal height to give spinal nerves more room and ensure that the neck is stable.
Artificial disc replacement
This surgery involves the total removal of the herniated or damaged disc causing cervical radiculopathy. The herniated or damaged disc is then replaced with an artificial disc.