Cervical radiculopathy is often referred to as a pinched nerve in the neck. It is characterized by radiating pain from the neck to the shoulder, shoulder blade, arm, or hand. The condition affects an average of 85 out of 100,000 people—most often individuals in their 50s. Athletes, heavy laborers, and workers who use vibrating machinery are commonly affected. People who sit for long periods of time, or individuals with arthritis in the cervical (neck) region can also be affected.
What is Cervical Radiculopathy?
Cervical radiculopathy occurs when a nerve root coming off the spinal cord becomes compressed. The compression can occur for various reasons. In younger people, it may occur when a cervical disc herniates due to trauma. In older individuals, it commonly occurs spontaneously as a result of arthritis or decreased disc height in the neck region.
Common Symptoms of Cervical Radiculopathy?
Symptoms of cervical radiculopathy vary depending on the nerve root involved, and commonly occur on the same side of the body as the affected nerve. The symptoms may include:
- Pain in the neck, shoulder blade, shoulder, upper chest, or arm, with pain possibly radiating into the fingers
- “Sharp” or “pins-and-needles” or “popping sensation” in the cervical region
- General dull ache or numbness anywhere along the pathway of the nerve
- Weakness in the shoulder, arm, or hand
- Pain that worsens with certain neck movements
- Pain that improves when the arm is lifted over and behind the head (relieving tension on the spinal nerve)
Commonly accepted indications for surgery include severe or progressive neurologic deficit (weakness or numbness) or significant pain that fails to respond to nonsurgical treatment.
Common Surgical Approaches For Cervical Radiculopathy:
- Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion
- Posterior Decompression and Laminectomy
- Cervical Disk Replacement
How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
Physical therapy is an effective and non-surgical treatment for cervical radiculopathy, and in many cases, it completely resolves symptoms. Your physical therapist will develop a customized Plan of Care based on the findings of your initial evaluation. The treatment plan may include:
- Pain Management
- Manual Therapy
- Posture Education
- Range-of-Motion Specific Exercises
- Strengthening Exercises
- Functional Training
If you believe you have Cervical Radiculopathy or if your neck pain is limiting your daily activities, Call Respire Physical Therapy at 703-671-1871 to schedule an evaluation today!
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