Cervical Radiculopathy

Overview

Cervical radiculopathy is an injury to the vertebrae or the disks in your neck. This injury can cause pain, numbness or weakness in your shoulders, arms, wrists or hands. That's because the nerves that extend out from this area of the neck (the cervical vertebrae) are the ones that provide sensation and trigger movement in these areas.

Fortunately, the medical experts at the Florida Hospital Celebration Health Sports Medicine Program can usually treat cervical radiculopathy without the need for surgery. And if surgery is required, our orthopaedic surgical team is one of the best in the nation when it comes to treating sports-related injuries such as cervical radiculopathy.

 

Causes of Cervical Radiculopathy

There are conditions that will put pressure on the nerve roots in the neck. The most common causes are:

  • Herniated cervical disk - When the outer layer of the disk cracks and the center breaks through it, the disk can protrude and put pressure on the nerve that exits the spinal column at that point. This can cause the nerve to become irritated, swollen or inflamed as it is pinched by the herniated disk.
  • Spinal stenosis - This condition occurs when the space in the center of the vertebrae becomes narrow and squeezes the spinal column and nerve roots.
  • Degenerative disk disease - Water content in the body's cells diminishes as you age and other chemical changes that occur can cause the disks to shrink. Without the necessary cushioning the disks provide, the vertebrae can start to press against one another, pinching a nerve or causing bony spurs to form.

To determine the extent of your condition, the sports medicine experts at the FHCH Sports Medicine Program will order an x-ray of the area to identify any degenerative disk problems. The doctor may also order an MRI or CT scan using a colored dye to outline all the nerves in the region.

 

Treatment

The course of treatment for cervical radiculopathy is conservative initially. The goal is to reduce the pain by easing pressure on the nerves through a combination of rest, medication and physical therapy.

  • Rest - You will be asked to rest a few days or wear a soft cervical collar to limit your motion to relieve irritation of the nerves. The goal is to return you to normal activities as soon as possible by giving the affected area time to rest and heal.
  • Medication - Non-narcotic pain medicine and anti-inflammatory drugs may help relieve any swelling.
  • Physical Therapy - After the muscles spasms subside, your orthopaedic surgeon may prescribe a cervical traction device or some other form of physical therapy such as heat/cold therapies, electric stimulation, isometrics or stretching exercises.

Learn about surgery for Cervical Radiculopathy.

If you have questions about cervical radiculopathy or want to make an appointment, please contact one of our Patient Care Coordinators and they'll be happy to help you.