Did you wake up with a stiff, sore neck? Do certain neck movements—like extending the neck or turning it, increase the pain? Do you find it challenging to accomplish your normal daily routine without neck pain? You likely have cervical radiculopathy, or as it’s more commonly known, a pinched nerve.
Cervical Radiculopathy is usually described as burning or sharp. Other symptoms include:
- Weakness in the muscles of the hand, arm, or shoulder
- Tingling or the feeling of "pins and needles" in the fingers or hand
- Loss of sensation
What causes Cervical Radiculopathy?
Radiculopathy is a spinal nerve root condition caused by nerve inflammation and injury. It can occur at any point along the spine from the neck along the middle back to the lower spine. When this injury is located in the neck (cervical spine), it is called Cervical Radiculopathy. This can have a variety of causes, including:
- Herniated discs
- Nerve root injury
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Scar tissue from previous spinal surgeries
Cervical Radiculopathy most often arises from degenerative changes that occur in the spine as we age or from an injury that causes a bulging, or herniated, intervertebral disk.
As the disks in the spine get older, they lose height and begin to bulge. They also lose water content, begin to dry out, and become stiffer. This issue creates collapse of the disk spaces and loss of disk space height.
As the disks lose height, the vertebrae move closer together. The body responds to the collapsed disk by creating more bone called “bone spurs” around the disk to solidify it. These bone spurs contribute to the stiffening of the spine. They may also narrow the foramen—the small openings on each side of the spinal column where the nerve roots exit—and pinch the nerve root.
A herniated disk occurs when its jelly-like center (nucleus) pushes against its outer ring (annulus). If the disk is very worn or injured, the nucleus may squeeze all the way through. When the herniated disk bulges out toward the spinal canal, it puts pressure on the nerve root, causing pain and weakness in the area the nerve supplies. A herniated disk often occurs with lifting, pulling, bending, or twisting movements.
Treatments for Cervical Radiculopathy
Our Interventional Pain Doctors have treated many cases of cervical radiculopathy. Of course, resting, avoiding vigorous activity, and physical therapy can help. However, when you’re in extreme pain, you need help. One of our doctors will examine you, perform tests, review your medical history and your treatments, and decide which of several treatments would most benefit you.
Facet Joint Injections
You have two facet joints on each vertebra in your neck. They enable movement, but also provide stability. The joints, as the other joints in your body, are lined with cartilage. When it breaks down, you may have bones rubbing against each other in your neck. You may experience pain not only in your neck, but also in your shoulders and your upper back. It can even give you a headache. Administering a facet joint injection which contains a steroid will reduce the inflammation.
Cervical Epidural Injections
A cervical epidural steroid injection is a procedure to inject anti-inflammatory medicine into the epidural space. The epidural space is between your spinal cord and vertebrae. Steroids reduce inflammation and fluid buildup in your spine that may be causing pain.
You may benefit from radiofrequency ablation, a nonsurgical, minimally invasive procedure that uses heat to reduce or stop the transmission of pain. Radiofrequency waves ablate, or "burn," the nerve that is causing the pain, essentially eliminating the transmission of pain signals to the brain.
Call Interventional Pain Doctors, or book online at one of our six convenient offices for expert treatment of pain relief.