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Pain Management Health Center

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Cervical Radiculopathy

What Is Cervical Radiculopathy?

Cervical radiculopathy is the damage or disturbance of nerve function that results if one of the nerve roots near the cervical vertebrae is compressed. 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, depending on where the damaged roots are located.

Causes of Cervical Radiculopathy

Damage can occur as a result of pressure from material from a ruptured disc, degenerative changes in bones, arthritis or other injuries that put pressure on the nerve roots. 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, perhaps as a result of trauma. This disc material then compresses or inflames the nerve root, causing pain.

Symptoms of Cervical Radiculopathy

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

Treatments of Cervical Radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy may be treated with a combination of pain medications such as corticosteroids (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 include 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.

Find out which doctors treat pain.
Learn how to better cope with your chronic pain.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 22, 2015

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