Cervical Radiculopathy: What Is It and What Can You Do?
by Jordan Ribota, PT, DPT
AZOPT Buckeye Doctor of Physical Therapy
Cervical radiculopathy can be summed up as the nerves exiting the neck are in some way being “pinched,” causing the nerves to function improperly. Most often, symptoms include numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness into the arms and hands.
What is “pinching” these nerves?
As the nerves exit the spinal cord there are two main issues – the vertebral disc and the vertebral facet joints. When a disc ruptures or herniates, it can push into the nerve and cause dysfunction. When the nerve passes through the facet joints, arthritis or degeneration of joints can cause irritation of the nerve.
How to determine if you have cervical radiculopathy?
Typically, cervical radiculopathy can be identified by performing special tests performed by your doctor or physical therapist to identify/provoke symptoms. In some cases, MRI imaging is used to identify any areas where there is narrowing of the joint spaces that the nerves must pass through.
Is there treatment for cervical radiculopathy?
While there are many different treatment options, physical therapy is the best and most conservative approach to try first. A licensed physical therapists will perform cervical traction and mobilization to increase the joint spaces the nerves pass through. Other options may include surgical management to “clean up” the tissues that are impinging on the nerves such as a discectomy or cervical fusions. Sometimes, injections can also be performed to decrease inflammation in the joint space causing the nerves to be “pinched.”
Ultimately the decision is your own when deciding what avenue to take for your treatment, but it is always best to make an informed decision. Speak to an AZOPT licensed physical therapist to help you with your journey to recovery.