Radiculopathy: Beyond a Pain in the Neck

Of all the possible causes of neck pain, radiculopathy is the only one that leads to problems that go beyond your neck. When you have cervical radiculopathy, or pinched nerves in your neck, you end up with symptoms that extend into your arms, hands, chest, shoulders, and upper back.

Because radiculopathy damages spinal nerves, you need the expertise of neurology specialist, Richard B. Kim, MD. He ensures you receive customized treatments that target the cause of your pain, promote your recovery, and help prevent complications like permanent nerve damage.

About cervical radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy refers to a compressed nerve root in your neck. The nerve root is the part of the nerve that branches off from the spinal cord. Nerve roots go through a small bony opening as they leave the spine to travel out to your body, and peripheral nerves throughout your body return to the spinal canal.

Any of the nerve roots in your neck can become pinched. The specific nerve that’s damaged determines the body area that develops symptoms. Some nerves in your neck serve your head and neck and others travel to your shoulders and arms.

Radiculopathy most often affects the nerve roots that travel through the vertebrae at the base of your neck, called C6 and C7. These nerves serve your arm, wrist, hand, and fingers, which is why cervical radiculopathy is most often associated with arm and hand symptoms.

Cervical radiculopathy symptoms

The primary symptom of cervical radiculopathy is neck pain that travels through your shoulder and down your arm, nearly always affecting just one side of your body. Some people develop a headache that starts in the neck and spreads to their head.

Pinched nerves cause other symptoms and sensations. It’s common to experience burning, tingling, or pins-and-needles sensations that radiate down your arm. You may also have tingling in specific fingers or your thumb.

The opposite problem also develops. Cervical radiculopathy can cause numbness and muscle weakness in one or more areas of your arm, hand, or fingers. Muscle weakness can lead to a weak grip or affect your ability to move your arm.

Cervical radiculopathy causes

You may end up with a pinched nerve after a neck injury, whether you suffer a sports injury, an everyday strain, or a whiplash during a car accident. Movements that suddenly and forcefully bend or rotate your neck are most likely to damage the nerve roots.

Injuries aren’t the only possible causes, however. The following spinal degenerative conditions frequently cause radiculopathy:

These conditions intrude into the narrow bony spaces of your spine, including the openings that let nerve roots travel in and out of the spinal cord. As a result, the nerve roots get trapped and compressed between tissues and bones.

Why cervical radiculopathy needs prompt treatment

These are the top three reasons why you should never wait to get treatment for neck pain, especially when your symptoms radiate down your arms.

You could develop permanent nerve damage

Without prompt treatment, the pinched nerve can sustain permanent damage. As a result, you may not recover the full range of motion, or you could lose function in your arm and hands.

Longer-lasting symptoms hinder your recovery

The longer you have radiating neck pain, the harder it is to fully recover with conservative therapies. Ongoing pain also increases your risk of developing chronic pain.

Your symptoms may not reflect the problem

The severity of your symptoms may not reflect the extent of the nerve damage. Your symptoms could temporarily disappear, making you think the problem improved. But that could mean you have severe nerve compression and the nerve stopped working. Before long more serious symptoms such as loss of muscle function appear.

If you have symptoms of cervical radiculopathy, don’t wait to schedule an appointment with Dr. Kim. Call our office in Newport Beach, California, or book an appointment online right now.

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