What is Cervical Radiculopathy?
Cervical radiculopathy is the medical term used to describe pain that runs down the arm caused from compression of the nerve(s) in the neck. Cervical radiculopathy is often caused by a cervical disc herniation.
Cervical radiculopathy can be extremely painful and can be accompanied by weakness or numbness down the shoulder, arm, and into the hand. Cervical radiculopathy can be acute, meaning it comes on quickly as a new problem, or can be something that develops over a longer period of time. Sometimes cervical radiculopathy can be difficult to distinguish from shoulder problems. Patient often will feel the pain in the shoulder or shoulder blade and frequently will see a shoulder doctor before seeing a spine doctor.
What is the treatment for cervical radiculopathy?
The good news is, most cervical radiculopathy does not require surgery and can be managed non-operatively. Treatment is individualized based on the severity of symptoms and the degree of compression. Initial treatment involves conservative observation, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. If symptoms fail to resolve with conservative therapy, an MRI is often obtained to evaluate for the cause of the cervical radiculopathy. Sometimes, pain management injections can be used to calm down the radiculopathy.
MRIs are useful to evaluate for the cause of cervical radiculopathy especially when trying to differentiate between a true shoulder problem versus a neck problem
If conservative treatments and injections have failed to improve symptoms, the next step is to consider surgery. The goal of surgery is to take the pressure off the nerve causing pain radiating down the arm. Surgery is a very successful treatment option for resolving radiculopathy.