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Often referred to as a “pinched nerve,” cervical radiculopathy occurs when a nerve root is irritated or compressed at its point of exit from the spinal canal. The nerves in the cervical spine enable sensation to the arms and hands, as well as transmit electrical signals that provide motor signals for movement. Nerve compression interferes with the transmission of impulses, causing pain, muscle weakness and/or alterations in sensation in the area that the nerve supplies.

Cervical, thoracic, or lumbar radiculopathies can occur. Radiculopathy refers to a problem affecting the nerve roots and is distinguished from myelopathy, which denotes a problem with the spinal cord.

Symptoms

Symptoms generally radiate from the neck and may affect the shoulders, arms, or hands. Depending on the severity of nerve compression and its location, function may become impaired. Examples may include difficulty raising the arm over the head or lifting/carrying heavier loads. Cervical radiculopathy can have a sudden onset or develop slowly over time. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can include:

  • Pain
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Occipital headaches (pain just above the back of the neck)
Cervical Radiculopathy

Treatment

Dr. Stieber begins with a thorough history and neurologic examination. Depending on these findings, X-rays, CT scan, MRI, or nerve conduction studies may be ordered.

Many patients obtain relief from medications, nerve blocks, and/or physical therapy. A cervical collar can be used to provide temporary support and limit neck motion.

Cervical Radiculopathy

For a subset of patients, cervical radiculopathy may not improve with non-surgical care. Intractable pain and increasing weakness or numbness are signs that the underlying condition (e.g., herniated disc) may be worsening. For these patients, Dr. Stieber is able to offer highly effective, minimally disruptive surgical treatment options. Many of these options can be performed as an outpatient or with a single overnight hospital stay.

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