HEALTH CORNER: Cervical Radicu… what?

Have you ever heard of cervical radiculopathy? It may sound quite frightening, but is actually a common condition that affects more than 200,000 Americans each year.

“Cervical” refers to the neck and “radiculopathy” refers to dysfunction of the nerves coming from the neck that lead to the arms. Cervical radiculopathy is the result of a nerve root in the neck that becomes irritated by the anatomical structures that are around it. This condition can cause pain, numbness, and/or weakness that can radiate from the neck down the arm and into the hand.

The most common reasons that a nerve in the neck gets irritated are: injury to a disc, bone spurs (arthritic change), and/or decrease in space for the nerves to fit through.

Disc-related radiculopathy is more common in younger adults, while pain stemming from arthritis is more common in older adults. It certainly can affect people of all ages but is most prominent among 40- to 50-year-old adults.

Cervical radiculopathy usually occurs on one side, but it can affect both sides depending on severity. The pain, numbness, and/or tingling typically follows a pattern for the nerve that is involved. It classically starts with just minor neck pain. But, as the nerve gets more inflamed, the symptoms start to spread. If left untreated, it can become chronic and numbness/weakness may worsen.

It is important to seek a medical professional if you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with cervical radiculopathy. This condition can be very debilitating and can disrupt your normal day to day life. Physical therapy is one of the first treatment options suggested to treat it. And for good reason, as physical therapy is a very effective treatment for cervical radiculopathy and it can help you avoid taking medication or having surgery.

Because there can be many different root causes to cervical radiculopathy, a skilled physical therapist will determine your source of pain and the appropriate treatment. A popular and very successful treatment includes using a “Mckenzie” based approach. This approach includes the use of repeated neck movements/exercises based on the patient’s symptoms. Another effective option is cervical traction, which unloads the neck to decrease the irritation of the nerves affected. Furthermore, there are other manual treatments that a physical therapist may choose to provide. For instance, if appropriate, the therapist can perform spinal mobilizations and/or manipulation to restore neck movement and reduce pain. Our clinicians are equipped with numerous tools to get you back in the swing of things.

If you think that you may be suffering from cervical radiculopathy, please contact your local CORA physical therapy to find the relief that you have been searching for. Or, if you are unsure, a free screening can be set up to determine if you need physical therapy.

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