Cervical radiculopathy is a disorder where a nerve in the neck is pinched. It manifests itself as pain radiating from the neck into the shoulder blade and typically down the affected arm. The exact location and pattern of pain varies depending on which nerve is being pinched. There may also be associated numbness, tingling in the arm and into the finger tips. Depending on the nerve being pinched and the severity of nerve dysfunction, there may also be associated weakness of the arm.
What Causes Cervical Radiculopathy? It is typically a herniated disc in the neck, a bone spur that is compressing the nerve, or degenerative changes that cause stenosis (or tightening) of the spinal canal.
How is it Diagnosed? The diagnosis of cervical radiculopathy is typically made with a thorough history and physical examination paying special attention to a neurologic exam. An MRI is typically needed to know exactly what is pinching the nerve and to confirm the diagnosis.
How is it Treated? Acute cervical radiculopathy generally has a self-limited clinical course with 75% rate of spontaneous improvement. Most often it can resolve with activity modification, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and possibly epidural steroid injections. For the 10-25% that do not respond to conservative care, surgery is indicated to take the pressure off of the nerve. These surgeries typically have greater than 95% success rates and fairly rapid recovery.
For more information on pinched nerves in the neck, go to WebMD
Thomas Mazahery, MD, is a spine specialist and practices out of our Reston and Springfield offices.