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Cervical Radiculopathy: A Large Pain in the Neck

When your neurologist at Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center tells you that you have cervical radiculopathy, you might be quite concerned that you’ve got something serious. Having a pinched nerve in your neck, on the other hand, doesn’t seem so intense.

However, the effects of cervical radiculopathy can be painful, and it can affect your sense of touch, as well as the strength of your muscles. In extreme cases, surgery may be necessary to resolve the problem, but cervical radiculopathy is usually responsive to conservative treatment.

Origins of cervical radiculopathy

The seven vertebrae at the top of your spine comprise its cervical portion. These bones create a channel through which your spinal column passes, with soft tissue disks between each vertebra. Nerves branch from the spinal cord and pass through openings called foramen, leading to other parts of your body.

When these branching nerves become irritated, or pinched, then the physical symptoms associated with cervical radiculopathy start to present themselves. Nerve irritation frequently stems from degenerative changes to the spine that result from disease, such as arthritis, injury, or simply as part of the aging process.

Changes to spinal disks

As you get older, spinal disks tend to lose height and water content. This alone reduces the size of the foramen, potentially irritating nerves. Your vertebrae develop bone spurs in response to these collapsing disks, too, which further impinge on the room through which nerves pass.

Aging disks can more easily rupture, which allows the softer inner filling to squeeze from the outer shell and press on nerves, also resulting in a pinched nerve and its resulting effects. However, most people develop these changes as they get older; only some of them develop cervical radiculopathy.

Pinched nerve symptoms

When nerve irritation starts, the symptoms you experience may depend on which nerve, where it’s pinched, and how severely the nerve is affected. There are, though, a range of common symptoms that indicate cervical radiculopathy is active.

In most cases, the symptoms won’t be at the site of the pinched nerve, but rather elsewhere along the path of the nerve. You could develop pain that feels aching, burning, or sharp, with or without an identifiable point of origin.

You could also suffer paresthesia, the tingling feeling often called “pins and needles,” and this may lead to the sensation that your hand has fallen asleep. The area supplied by the irritated nerve could also take on a level of permanent numbness. Since nerves control muscle movement as well as sensations, you could feel weakness in areas under the pinched nerve’s control.

Treating cervical radiculopathy

In most cases of cervical radiculopathy, you’ll heal with rest and conservative care. Even nerve irritation due to ruptured disks tends to resolve naturally. However, while recovery may take only days or weeks for some, other cases could last much longer.

Nonsurgical treatments include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy, or corticosteroids in oral or injected form. When nonsurgical care fails to relieve symptoms, one of several surgical approaches may be suggested.

Choosing care with Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center is the smart choice, as the experienced neurosurgeons can confirm diagnosis and explore all conservative treatment options for cervical radiculopathy. Contact any of their three locations by phone or through the online appointment request tool. Don’t suffer passively from the effects of a pinched nerve. Call today. 

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If you're looking for a neurosurgeon in the Phoenix area, contact Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center for the ultimate neurological care.