Cervical Radiculopathy (Pinched Nerve)


Cervical radiculopathy, often called a pinched nerve, is a compression or impingement of a nerve in the neck. It often causes significant discomfort in the upper extremities. While it can be debilitating if left untreated, most patients recover completely with some simple conservative treatment.


Cervical radiculopathy is caused by repeated stress on the spine. As a result, it’s more common in patients with existing spinal conditions such as a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, or spinal stenosis. Each of these disorders damages the discs that protect the spinal nerves and reduces the space between them, increasing the patient’s risk of developing a pinched nerve.


The most common symptoms of cervical radiculopathy are pain in the neck and upper back and a sense of numbness, tingling, or general weakness in the arms. Stretching or straining the neck, sleeping with your head turned to the side, and tilting your head as you talk on the phone can aggravate these symptoms.


Cervical radiculopathy is generally diagnosed after taking an MRI of the cervical spine and performing an EMG or a nerve conduction study. During these tests, your doctor will chart the path of an electrical current to determine the extent of the damage to the nerve or surrounding muscles.

As soon as it’s diagnosed, patients will begin a physical therapy program that’s designed to eliminate pain and inflammation while restoring your range of motion. After performing manual nerve glides to reduce irritation in the neck, your physical therapist will manually perform traction on your neck and teach you some stretching and joint mobilization techniques to relieve inflammation and expand your range of motion.

If these exercises are practiced regularly, they should prevent further nerve impingement and relieve pressure on the nerve roots, providing nearly complete relief. If necessary, cervical epidural steroid injections can also be administered to eliminate pain as you rehabilitate your neck.



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