The term cervical radiculopathy refers to pain, numbness, weakness, or tingling caused by the irritation of a nerve in your cervical spine (neck).
Our video walk-through can help you visualize these cervical radiculopathy symptoms, along with the various conditions that may them:
The anatomy of your cervical spine makes the nerves in your neck susceptible to pinching or aggravation.
Your cervical spine is comprised of 7 vertebrae, divided by gelatinous discs, which hold up your skull and enable the movement of your neck and head. Each level of your cervical spine is numbered C1-C7.
See Cervical Discs
There are small openings between each pair of vertebrae, called foramina, where your nerves exit the spinal column.
See Cervical Nerves
Once your nerves pass through the foramina, they branch out to provide sensation and motor control throughout your shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers on both sides of your body.
Pain, numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness may be felt along the path of any of these nerves if your nerve roots are compressed or irritated (radiculopathy).
Conditions that may cause radiculopathy
One common cause of cervical radiculopathy is a cervical degenerated disc. A cervical degenerated disc results when the discs between your vertebrae wear down, causing the vertebrae to collapse.
This in turn can place pressure on the surrounding nerve roots and send symptoms along a nerve path.
Another possible cause of cervical radiculopathy is a cervical herniated disc. A disc herniates when the inner gel-like material leaks out (often due to wear-and-tear), and this can irritate or compress a nerve root.
Cervical spinal stenosis can also cause radiculopathy if the facet joints in the back of your neck degenerate and compress a nerve root (at it passes through a foramina).
Location of symptoms
Your symptoms depend in part on the location of the nerve being affected. For example, symptoms at the base of the neck, the tricep, and the middle finger indicate that a nerve is being irritated at the C7 level.
Moving your neck, turning and nodding your head, or leaning your head back may further aggravate your symptoms.
Treatment of cervical radiculopathy
Treatment for cervical radiculopathy typically needs to be tailored toward the specific underlying cause of your symptoms. In addition, the type of treatment you receive will be based in part on how much your symptoms affect your day-to-day functioning.
Common treatments for cervical radiculopathy include:
- Limiting activities that require sudden neck movements
- Gradual and controlled exercise
- Ice and/or heat therapy
- Manual manipulation by a chiropractor
Other conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, can mimic cervical radiculopathy symptoms. This means that if you suspect you have cervical radiculopathy, you need to schedule an appointment with your doctor to make sure your symptoms are not being provoked locally in your arm or hand.