Cervical Radiculopathy

Radiculopathy is a term used to describe a chronic condition that has caused injury to the spinal nerves. The spinal nerves originate at the spinal cord and are considered peripheral nerves once they exit out into the body. They are responsible for sensation and motor function of the body.

Nerves that exit the cervical spine provide sensation and motor control to the neck, shoulders, and arms. Injury to these nerves can result in symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, and possible a change in reflexes. In the cervical spine the most commonly affected areas are C4-C7 because this is where the greatest movement occurs resulting in higher frequency of degeneration.

Causes of Radiculopathy
Anything that presses onto the nerve can be a caused of radiculopathy such as:
Herniated Discs
Muscle Spasms
Degenerative joint and disc disease

The symptoms will depend on which nerve is affected and where that nerve travels to; common symptoms are as follows: note some of these symptoms can travel down as far as the hand
Pain and weakness
Numbness and tingling
Muscle spasm
Loss of motion when turning the head, or looking up and down
Loss of the normal curvature of the cervical spine known as a lordosis
Pain with activity that is relieved with rest

Common pain patterns in the cervical spine

C2: pain in the back of the head, headaches
C3: behind the eye or ear pain
C4: upper shoulder pain, base of neck
C5: upper arm pain
C6: thumb pain or weakness, also index finger and side of arm
C7: middle finger pain and/or weakness
C8: ring and littler finger pain and/or weakness

*Some of these symptoms are mistaken for carpal tunnel, especially in the hand. Carpal tunnel pain is usually LOCALIZED to just the hand and only involves the thumb, index, and middle finger

Treatment Options
Rest, medication, ice (acute injury), cervical brace, steroidal medication, epidural injections, physical therapy or chiropractic care
Treatment options will vary depending on the severity of your symptoms
If conservative care does not help or ease or symptoms then you may be a surgical candidate in the future

How Physical Therapy Can Help
At physical therapy your physical therapist may use manual techniques such as soft tissue massage and joint mobilizations to improve flexibility, reduce spasm, reduce pain, and improve range of motion to the cervical spine. You should also expect to perform exercises that will help strengthen to cervical muscles to provide stability to the spine and to decrease overall stress to the cervical spine. The exercises will also help to improve posture in order to reduce stress in sitting, standing and sleeping.


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