Cervical radiculopathy is an umbrella term for radiating pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness caused by irritation of the cervical nerve roots.
In the neck, there are seven cervical vertebrae that support the skull and enable movement.
Nerve roots exit the spine and pass through the foramina of each cervical vertebrae from the C1 to C7 levels.
These nerve roots branch out to provide sensation and motor control to the shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers.
When these nerve roots are compressed or irritated, it can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness along the path of the nerve.
There are several conditions that can cause cervical radiculopathy.
Degenerative disc disease can cause radiculopathy as one or more spinal discs thin and the space between the vertebrae collapses, putting pressure on the surrounding nerves.
A herniated disc can cause cervical radiculopathy if disc material leaks out and compresses or irritates a nearby nerve root.
Cervical spinal stenosis can cause radiculopathy if the facet joints in the back of the neck tighten and compress the nerve roots as they pass through the foramina.
Symptoms can differ depending on the location of the affected nerve.
Nerve root irritation at the C6 level can cause radiculopathy symptoms in the biceps, the wrist, the thumb, and the index finger.
Compression or irritation at the C7 level affects the base of the neck, the triceps, and the middle finger.
Nerve root irritation at the C8 level impacts the fourth and fifth fingers, and can impair the ability to grasp or grip with the hand and fingers.
Neck movements such as turning or nodding the head, or leaning the head back, can further aggravate cervical radiculopathy symptoms.