Understanding the Symptoms and Treatment
Cervical radiculopathy is a condition that affects the nerves in the neck and spine. This condition is characterized by pain, weakness, and numbness that travels from the neck down to the arms and hands. Cervical radiculopathy can be caused by several factors, such as injury, herniated discs, or degenerative conditions in the spine. In this article, we’ll discuss what cervical radiculopathy is, its symptoms, diagnosis, and available treatment options.
The cervical spine is composed of seven vertebrae that are responsible for supporting the head and allowing it to rotate and move in different directions. The cervical spine is also surrounded by nerves that run through small openings between the vertebrae. These nerves are responsible for transmitting signals to the arms, hands, and fingers.
What area(s) of the neck and head can cause cervical radiculopathy?
Cervical radiculopathy can be caused by various factors that affect the cervical spine. In most cases, the condition is caused by a herniated disc that compresses the nerves in the neck. Other possible causes of cervical radiculopathy include bone spurs, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease.
What are the symptoms of cervical radiculopathy?
The symptoms of cervical radiculopathy can vary depending on the severity of the condition. However, some common symptoms of cervical radiculopathy include:
- Pain in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands
- Numbness or tingling in the arms and hands
- Weakness in the arms and hands
- Limited range of motion in the neck
How is cervical radiculopathy diagnosed?
To diagnose cervical radiculopathy, your doctor will perform a physical examination and ask you about your symptoms. In some cases, imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans may be required to get a better look at the affected area. Electromyography (EMG) tests may also be used to evaluate nerve function and identify any potential damage.
What are the treatments for cervical radiculopathy?
The treatment for cervical radiculopathy will depend on the severity of the condition and the underlying cause. In most cases, conservative treatments are recommended before considering surgery. Some of the most common treatment options for cervical radiculopathy include:
- Rest and Activity Modification: Rest and avoiding activities that cause pain can help reduce symptoms and inflammation.
- Physical Therapy: Stretching and strengthening exercises can help improve range of motion and reduce pain.
- Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, and corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Injections: Corticosteroid injections may be used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
- Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove the herniated disc or alleviate pressure on the affected nerves.
Physical Therapy Rehabilitation for cervical radiculopathy
Rehabilitation is often required to help restore strength, flexibility, and range of motion in the neck and spine. This may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, or other forms of rehabilitation. Your physical therapist’s plan of care may include:
- Postural Education: To promote optimal positioning of your head, neck and upper body and reduce pain symptoms.
- Manual Therapy: Such as stretching, vertebral mobilizations and manual traction so as to place less stress on the cervical nerves.
- Range of Motion Exercises: Moving your neck into pain free areas through stretching and normal movements, so as to regain normal range of movement.
- Pain Management: Use of ice, heat and positioning/resting to reduce stress on the nerves and reduce pain symptoms.
- Strengthening, Stability: Using the muscles of the neck for static, dynamic positioning, moving of the head, neck and upper torso to increase movement through pain free areas.
- Activity Modification: Proper work station set up, taking proper rest breaks well as adding exercise breaks throughout the day.
- Functional Training: Retraining the neck and upper body through proper pushing, pulling, reaching activities to regain normal movement patterns.