The cervical or upper region of the spine has 8 pairs of nerve roots – the C1 to the C8. These nerves branch out from the spinal cord out to the sides of the spinal canal and exit through the intervertebral foramen (small bony opening between the vertebrae). These nerves then spread out further to supply the muscles that enable movement and other functions within areas such as the arms, hands, fingers, and even the touch senses of our skin.
What is Cervical Radiculopathy?
Cervical Radiculopathy is a condition affecting the cervical or upper region of the spine, nearest the neck. This condition occurs when a nerve root within the upper spine, becomes severely damaged or inflamed – often causing loss of nerve function, pain and other neurological issues.Depending on which nerve roots have been damaged, and where they are located, Cervical Radiculopathy can cause intense pain, as well as loss of feeling in the arms and hands.
A pinched or irritated nerve in the neck is a type of cervical radiculopathy. This nerve damage is often the result of a herniated or damaged disc – caused by disc deterioration over time, either due to age or some type of injury.
Causes of Cervical Radiculopathy
Cervical radiculopathy is a fairly common spinal issue amongst both men and women in the US. This nerve damage & compression, can occur due to a variety of reasons, including:
- Herniated or Ruptured Disc
- Injury, Accident or Trauma
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Bone Spurs
- Arthritis in the Spine
- Infection or Tumor in the Spine
Cervical radiculopathy causes a wide variety of symptoms. These symptoms can be different depending on the specific area of the damage or nerve impingement. The most common symptoms include:
- Moderate to Severe Pain – Radiating from the upper back, neck, and shoulders, down to the arms, hands, and fingers.
- Numbness & Loss of Feeling
- Lack of Coordination & Poor Motor Function
- Muscle Weakness
- Tingling or Burning Sensations – Concentrated in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands.
Considering how common cervical radiculopathy is in the world of spinal care, there are a number of different treatment methods out there – both surgical and non-surgical.
Non-Surgical Options include:
- Physical Therapy – To improve cervical traction and lost mobility.
- Medication – Anti-Inflammatory drugs and pain relivers used in conjunction.
- Spinal Injection – Epidural injections & corticosteroid injections.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms and how they are progressing, surgery might be necessary but only in rare cases. For many, the nerve compression becomes so significant that they experience motor weakness and their symptoms get progressively worse, despite physical therapy and medication. The type of surgery is dependent upon the cause of the nerve compression, as the surgery is designed to not only decompress the nerve but eliminate the root cause. Surgical options include:
- Decompression Surgery
- Cervical Disc Replacement – The damaged or herniated disc will be removed, usually from an anterior approach – and replaced with an artificial disc. This surgery avoids fusion and preserves motion.
- Discectomy – Removal of the entire disc. Often done in the conjunction with spinal fusion from the anterior approach (ACDF Surgery).
Depending on the specifics of your case, other variations of these procedures may be necessary. For more information about cervical radiculopathy, other spinal conditions or to schedule a consultation, contact Dr. Arutyunyan today.