You’ve Got Some Nerve
Persons who talk about nerve pain know the condition can be unpleasant. Nerves are made of billions of cells and fibers that send impulses from the brain to the body. Should these nerves become pinched or pressed, the result can be shocking. Nerve pain in the neck and hands can be incredibly painful. The reason could be cervical radiculopathy, which originates from the spine.
Do you have cervical radiculopathy?
Doctors describe cervical radiculopathy as nerve pain coming from one or more cervical nerve roots. There are 7 cervical vertebrae and 6 discs that secure the neck and head. Eight cervical nerves branch out from the spinal cord through spaces called foramen. These nerves equally distribute to both shoulders, arms, and hands. Should space become compromised, the cervical nerve roots get compressed or irritated. The condition often impacts one side of the body, but there are instances of nerve compression on both sides.
What’s causing the nerve pain?
One of the more common reasons for compression is a herniated disc. Intervertebral discs can shift out of place due to injury or wear and tear. The slipped disc could press on the cervical nerve, causing pain and irritation. Conditions like arthritis can create bone spurs that can jot down and irritate the nerve roots. Over time, diseases like spondylosis or spinal stenosis reduce the size of the opening.
Are there any symptoms?
Persons experiencing cervical radiculopathy will feel pain and numbness in the neck. The problem can move to the shoulder, arm, hands, and even fingers. Persons will also experience a feeling of pins and needles. Over time, radiating pain causes muscle weakness, affecting daily life. The discomfort will often run along one side of the arm or hand, which can signal which nerve is affected. The C7 and C8 nerves are the most commonly affected by cervical radiculopathy. Patients may not realize at first, as the symptoms can be intermittent.
Getting to the root of the issue
Only a doctor can confirm if the issue is cervical radiculopathy. There are several other conditions like tumors, ligament injuries, or thoracic outlet syndrome with similar symptoms. The doctor will perform an MRI or CT scan to determine the affected nerve and the root cause. Other tests include electromyography or EMG, and physical examinations like Spurling’s test. Once one or more of these tests are positive, a doctor can safely diagnose cervical radiculopathy.
Is there a fix?
Pinched nerves can be uncomfortable, painful, and disrupt the quality of life. However, there are a few ways to treat the issue. First, the doctor will try several weeks of non-surgical treatment. The non-surgical treatment combines physical therapy with pain killers or an epidural steroid injection. If detected early, many patients can benefit from long-term, non-surgical treatment. But if the treatment fails, the patient may be a candidate for surgery.
Going under the knife
Both patient and doctor must decide on surgery as a long-term solution. Based on the reason behind cervical radiculopathy, there is an appropriate surgical procedure. For instance, if there is a slipped disc, the patient can benefit from cervical disc replacement or fusion. If spinal stenosis or spondylosis is the issue, a laminotomy or foraminotomy can help. Technology allows these procedures to happen under minimally invasive techniques. That means smaller incisions, lower risk, and faster recovery.
Don’t ignore cervical nerve pain
With cervical radiculopathy, a patient will continue to feel weakness, pain, or numbness. The nerve pain is often caused by irritation or compression from one of several spinal-related conditions. Luckily, there are treatment options available, including outpatient surgery. Surgery has been proven to be successful in reducing pain long-term. Don’t ignore signs of numbness or pain in the neck, arms, and hands. See a doctor immediately and get some much-needed treatment.