What is Cervical Radiculopathy?

Q:
What is cervical radiculopathy?

A:
Cervical radiculopathy is the damage or disturbance of nerve function which occurs if one of the nerve roots near the cervical vertebrae is compressed. Many factors contribute to this condition. Young people suffer from cervical radiculopathy mainly due to trauma. And older people commonly get it because of decreased disc height.

Symptoms:

  • Pain that spreads into the arm, neck, chest, upper back and/or shoulders
  • Muscle weakness and/or numbness or tingling in fingers or hands
  • Lack of coordination (especially in hands)

Diagnosis:

Patients will have a careful physical examination to make the source of the symptoms identified. The exam is composed of neurological tests that assess sensory changes, strength changes, reflexes and specific tests that confirm the cause of your pain. The results of these tests will help identify the cause and the nerve involved.

Treatment:

Treatment options depend on your level of pain and the result of exam.

Medications are mainly used to reduce inflammation, control pain, and manage any resulting muscle spasms.

Physical therapy is used to assist in calming pain and inflammation, increasing mobility, and improving stability and strength. In many cases, it is very effective. The therapy includes:

  • Pain management
  • Manual therapy
  • Posture education
  • Range-of-motion exercises
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Functional training

If there is no noticeable improvement after therapy, surgery will be recommended. Two of the most common surgeries are:

  • Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)
  • Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Disc Replacement (ACDR)

Your surgeon will have a talk with you and offer the most appropriate surgery.

Prevention:

Here are some ways for you to prevent cervical radiculopathy:

  • Maintaining proper posture
  • Setting up your workstation to minimize undue forces on the spine
  • Continuing with regular exercise
  • Keeping a healthy weight

If you have any problems, please let your doctor know.

Keywords: cervical radiculopathy; symptoms; diagnosis; treatment; prevention

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