Cervical radiculopathy is a serious medical condition that leads to excruciating pain, tingling, weakness and numbness of the upper extremities. The conditions features with the impairment or disruption of the nerve activity due to compression of the nerve roots in the cervical part of the spine. Compression to the roots results in their irritation and is responsible for all the symptoms and signs of radiculopathy.
What are Symptoms and Signs of Cervical Radiculopathy
Majority of patients suffering from cervical radiculopathy complain about the pain that is located in the neck and spreads/ radiates down the upper extremities. The pain may be described as dull, aching and sometimes it occurs in a form of stubbing and burning sensation. There are both sensory and motor impairment. Damage to the nerves results in muscle weakness and changes in sensorium (numbness and tingling sensation). In some cases irritation of the roots result in hypersensitivity. Such patients may experience abnormally increased sensation and are very sensitive to touch.
Causes of Cervical Radiculopathy
Compression of cervical spinal nerves and their roots can develop due to ruptured disc, degenerative alteration in vertebrae and bone injuries. In elderly the condition generally develops as a consequence of degenerative changes to the spine.
Treatment for Cervical Radiculopathy
The treatment for cervical radiculopathy includes the treatment for the underlying condition and the treatment for symptoms and signs of the compression.
In case of irritation cervical roots alleviation of pain is achieved with effective traction and with the assistance of cervical collar. It is also essential to provide with proper positioning of the neck during traction. Traction is a part of physical therapy. Physical therapy is definitely an essential component of treatment for cervical radiculopathy. Apart from traction patients are taught specific exercises that increase strength of the cervical muscles and they also need to learn how to move their head and neck in order to avoid further damage and even more severe damage to the already damaged tissues.
Furthermore, cervical radiculopathy is treated with medications. There is a combination of pain medications prescribed to patients who have to deal with excruciating pain. In such cases the doctors commonly opt for corticosteroids and non-steroidal pain medications. Corticosteroids are very powerful anti-inflammatory drugs and they reduce inflammation of the nerves or their roots and consequently alleviate pain. They are either taken orally or injected epidurally. Non-steroidal pain medications are also prescribed to patients suffering from cervical radiculopathy. These drugs are highly effective against inflammation.
And finally, in case all the conservative treatments do not provide with desirable effects patients may need to undergo surgical decompression of the affected cervical spine nerves.