Neck pain, although felt in the neck, can be caused by numerous other spinal problems. Cervical radiculopathy is neck pain due to pinching of the nerves emanating from the cervical vertebrae. The nerves in your body extend from your brain and spinal cord, sending important messages throughout your body and when those nerves are pinched or compressed your body sends out warning signals. Pain from a pinched nerve may be minor or severe. Don’t ignore these warning signals.
What is Cervical Radiculopathy?
Cervical nerves exit the spine at each level and then branch out to supply muscles that enable the shoulders, arms, hands and fingers to function. 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 arms and hands.
Causes of Cervical Radiculopathy
Damage can occur as a result of pressure 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.
Treating pain caused by Cervical Radiculopathy
Initial treatment should be directed at reducing pain and inflammation. The treatment can begin with local icing, NSAIDs, and corticosteroids. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can be used to reduce swelling. These are available both over-the-counter and by prescription. Prescription doses can help curb inflammation. Narcotic pain relievers are available by prescription only and may be used to help with more severe pain.
Oral corticosteroids are used to reduce swelling and pain. A Trigger Point Injection (TPI) is an intra-muscular injection of a local anesthetic into muscle trigger points, often accompanied by an anti-inflammatory steroid, to combat specific pain points and chronic pain.
Nerve blocks can be used to block pain signals coming from a specific location in the body and/or decrease inflammation in that area. A nerve block is an anesthetic or anti-inflammatory injection into a particular nerve or group of nerves for pain relief.
In addition to reducing pain and inflammation, measures can be taken to reduce the forces compressing the nerve root: relative rest; avoiding positions that increase arm and/or neck symptoms. A cervical collar can be used for patient comfort and some support. A cervical pillow at night can be helpful in maintaining the neck in a neutral position and limiting head positions.
Physical therapy can help alleviate acute neck and arm symptoms that result from this condition, as well as improve general strength and function. You will also receive instructions on how to bend, reach, and lift throughout the day in safe positions that place minimal pressure on your spinal discs.
Our specialists offer many solutions for your neck pain. The earlier you get a diagnosis and treatment for nerve compression, the more quickly you’ll find relief. Contact Florida Pain Medicine to determine if treatment can help you.