Cervical radiculopathy

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What is cervical radiculopathy?

Cervical radiculopathy is pain, numbness or tingling that originates in the cervical spine (neck) and radiates down the arms. It results from any condition that irritates or compresses the nerve roots in the neck.

How does cervical radiculopathy occur?

Cervical radiculopathy can occur as the result of any condition that compresses the neck. Common causes include:

  • Cervical disc herniation – a painful rupture of the outer cartilage of a lumbar disc
  • Spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck
  • Spondylolisthesis – a condition in which a vertebra in the lower back slips forward over another
  • Traumatic injury
  • Other degenerative spine disorders

What are the symptoms?

Pain caused by cervical radiculopathy can travel down the arm into the hand.

Typical symptoms include:

For some people, these symptoms may be severe and debilitating. For others, symptoms may be infrequent and irritating, but have the potential to get worse.

What is the treatment?

Many patients improve with conservative treatment that includes rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, or physical therapy. Your doctor may have you wear a soft brace around your neck for a short period of time.

If these measures fail to alleviate symptoms, epidural steroid injections (ESI) may be an effective treatment. This targeted procedure deposits a long-lasting steroid directly into the epidural space surrounding the spine. Your doctor will use fluoroscopic guidance and contrast dye to enhance visualization and improve accuracy. A specific type of ESI – a transforaminal approach – can be used to localize a specific nerve root that is the source of pain.