Our spines are made from four different components: the small stackable bones called vertebrae; joints attached to each vertebrae that give us greater flexibility; disks which serve as soft buffers cushioning our bones; and nerves, which allow us to feel pain and control our movement. When each component is working as it should, our spine helps us stretch, bend, support weight, and move seamlessly and painlessly. However, if one of these components should weaken or deteriorate, we may feel pain in our neck, back, or limbs.
What is Cervical Radicuolopathy?
As we age the disks in our spine can wear down or even tear from the bones grinding against them. This deterioration or herniation of the disk can pinch our nerves in a condition called radiculopathy.
Radiculopathy in the upper spine, near the neck, is often referred to as cervical radiculopathy and can cause pain from the shoulders to our lower arms, hands, and fingers. The nerves in our spine radiate out toward the rest of our body, similar to branches on a tree, which is why pain or injury to the spine can be felt in other parts of the body.
In addition to pain, cervical radiculopathy can cause limited movement, numbness or loss of feeling, tingling, and decreased muscle strength.
In many cases, your primary care provider will be able to diagnosis cervical radiculopathy based on symptoms and physical examination. If the problem worsens or does not respond to treatment, a pain specialist or neurologist (a doctor specializing in nerve injuries) may conduct more extensive testing to better evaluate the condition.
Cervical radiculopathy can generally be treated with medication, physical therapy, or steroids. Depending on the severity, bed rest may also be temporarily advised to help your body recover. If the nerve damage is more extensive or unresponsive to these treatments, surgery may be advised.
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