Cervical radiculopathy or a pinched nerve occurs when neck pain spreads all the way into your shoulders or arms. This pain and discomfort is actually the result of an injury near a spinal nerve root. Cervical radiculopathy is a very common occurence as its development is so closely associated with aging.
If you look at the anatomy of vertebrae, located between each bone are intervertebral disks which are responsible for the spine’s flexibility, support, and strength. These disks contain high levels of water. Over time, this water content depletes. This causes the disks to become stiff and then shrink and bulge, causing vertebrae to start moving closer together. The body, believing that these collapsed disks are in trouble, responds by constructing sharp bone spurs around the disks for strength. Bone spurs may also cause narrowing of the spinal canal, leading to the development of a pinched nerve in the back or neck, causing cervical radiculopathy.
Cervical Radiculopathy Symptoms
Every person’s spinal disks go through a series of natural changes as a result of the aging process. We all can expect some worn disks and a pinched nerve in the back and neck regions throughout life. That said, not all persons will have the same symptoms and pain of cervical radiculopathy, if at all. For some, cervical radiculopathy becomes a serious health threat.
If cervical radiculopathy does develop, patients typically experience pain, particularly down the arm housing the pinched nerve(s). This pain usually manifests as sharp bursts, dull aches, tingling, or even numbness. Some cervical radiculopathy patients may also be gripped by weakness. Some patients also complain that certain movements may worsen the symptoms of cervical radicuolpathy. These include extending or straining the neck or turning the head. Specific movements, like placing the hand on the head and stretching the shoulder, actually relieve cervical radiculopathy pain and discomfort.
Visiting Doctors for Cervical Radiculopathy
If cervical radiculopathy develops, you may need medical assistance. Physicians will typically take a complete medical history and discuss your symptoms. They’ll also conduct a full examination, including tests for strength and sensation, as well as for reflexes. Physicians may also order X-rays to assess the bones’ alignment and any disk narrowing. They may also often order diagnostic tests such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance image (MRI) scans of the neck.