What is Cervical Radiculopathy?
Cervical Radiculopathy is the clinical term used to describe pain and neurological symptoms caused by any type of condition that irritates one of the nerves located in your cervical spine (neck). This condition is often referred to as a “pinched nerve”.
At each spinal level throughout the entire length of the spine, there are nerve roots that exit through holes in the bone of the foramen (spine) on both sides of the spinal column. These nerves, sometimes referred to as radicular nerves, branch out at every level of the spine and innervate various regions of the body.
For instance, the nerves that exit the cervical spine run down through the arms, hands and fingers, stimulating nerve impulses in these areas. This is the reason why neck problems that impact the cervical nerve root can also create symptoms and pain in the arms and hands. Conversely, problems in the lower back that impact a lumbar nerve root can trigger pain in the leg and into the foot.
What Causes Cervical Radiculopathy?
Cervical radiculopathy can occur for a number of different reasons. The condition manifests as a result of pressure on the nerves where they exit the spinal column as discussed above. Common causes of cervical radiculopathy include:
What are the Symptoms of Cervical Radiculopathy?
Cervical radiculopathy is often experienced as pain running from the neck into a specific area of the body, usually the arm, forearm or hand. Pain caused by cervical radiculopathy is often accompanied by a feeling of numbness traveling along the same path. Many patients also experience weakness in particular muscles of the arm, forearm or hand.
How is Cervical Radiculopathy Treated?
There are several treatment options available to those who are suffering from one of the forms of cervical radiculopathy. The treatment type can vary depending on the severity of the symptoms, as well as where the symptoms are most frequently occurring. Based on a clinical evaluation, your physician will tailor an appropriate treatment plan that targets your specific symptoms.
Initial treatment typically begins with measures aimed at reducing the associated pain and discomfort. This may include a combination of local icing, rest, medications or physical therapy. If conservative treatment options do not help to alleviate symptoms, epidural steroid injections may be administered.
This simple outpatient procedure is performed using x-ray guidance (fluoroscopy). Under fluoroscopic guidance, a needle is directed to the suspected problem area, in the majority of cases under local anesthesia alone. Anti-inflammatory medication is then injected into the epidural space to decrease inflammation of the nerve roots. This procedure is typically quite effective at reducing pain and helping to facilitate the healing process.
Response to epidural steroid injections varies from patient to patient. Some individuals experience immediate relief while for others it can take up to two weeks for improvement to occur. Some patients may only require the initial injection for symptom relief, but some may need up to three. Multiple injections are usually administered over the course of a one to three month recovery period depending on the patient.
Cervical Radiculopathy Treatment in Austin
At the Diagnostic Pain Center in Austin, we see patients with a wide range of back and neck related pain. Cervical radiculopathy is a common condition that our providers are familiar with diagnosing and experienced at successfully treating.