Cervical Radiculopathy is present when a nerve located in the neck from C1 to C8 is ‘pinched’ or impinged by some external force. This can be due to a bony spur, degenerative disc bulging or herniated disc. It can also be gradual in onset due to aging or resulting from traumatic injury. The source of the pain is in the neck but the nerve travels down the neck, shoulders and into the hands and pain can occur along the path of the nerve. It may also cause hand or arm weakness due to the nerve being ‘pinched’.
Why It Occurs
When a nerve is irritated or pinched — by either a bone spur or a part of the intervertebral disc — it causes problems in the nerve and the nerve does not work quite right. This shows up as weakness in the muscles the nerve goes to, numbness in the skin that the nerve goes to and pain where the nerve travels. In the neck, this condition is called cervical radiculopathy.
A cervical radiculopathy causes symptoms that radiate out away from the neck. What this means is that although the problem is in the spine, the symptoms may be felt in the shoulder, the arm, or the hand. The symptoms will be felt in the area where the nerve that is irritated travels. When you are suffering from a cervical ‘pinched nerve’, there is usually also neck pain and headaches in the back of your head. These are sometimes referred to as occipital headaches because the area just about the back of the neck is called the “occiput.”
Medications are commonly used to control pain, inflammation, muscle spasm, and sleep disturbance. Other conservative measures include Physical Therapy, home exercises, heat, rest and ice to break and muscle spasms. If other treatments do not relieve your back pain, you may be given an epidural steroid injection, or a cervical nerve block. Steroids are very strong anti-inflammatory medicines that may control the inflammation surrounding the nerves and may ease the pain caused by irritated nerve roots. The epidural steroid injection is not always successful. This injection is often used when other conservative measures do not work, or in an effort to postpone surgery.