The Spine Center

Highly skilled & patient-centered care.

Cervical Radiculopathy (Pinched Nerve)

A nerve root injury, also known as a 'pinched nerve' can occur within the cervical spine (this is the upper part of the spine comprised of the neck and upper back). A pinched nerve can cause an individual to experience pain in his/her neck that radiates down to the shoulders and arms.

Causes:

Aging - bones become more brittle over time and the discs (which cushion the bones in the spine, preventing them from grating against one another) begin to thin.

Symptoms:

  • Sharp pains
  • Numbness
  • Feeling weak in certain activities

Diagnosis:

In order to diagnose cervical radiculopathy, your physician may:

  • Look at your medical history
  • Perform a physical examination
  • Order other imaging studies:
    • X-rays
    • CT Scan
    • MRI Scans
    • Electromyelography - this is a type of nerve conduction study which can differentiate between symptoms caused by pressure on the spinal nerve roots or are the result of other conditions.

Treatment:

Nonsurgical Options

Medication

Spinal Injections: These injections consist of inserting steroids directly into the area where the pain occurs

Oral corticosteroids: These can help reduce swelling as well as pain.

Anti-Inflammatories: Drugs such as ibuprofen or aspirin can help reduce swelling and pain.

Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can assist in stretching the neck muscles, easing the pain, and increase the strength of muscles.

Soft Collars: By limiting the neck muscle motion, a soft collar allows the neck muscles to rest. This can help ease the pain when moving the neck but should not be used long-term

Surgical Options

Depending on several factors, your physician will determine which type of surgical treatment is best for you based on m edical history and the type and location of the pain.

Anterior Cervical Diskectomy and Fusion (ACDF)
This procedure restores the alignment of the spine from the front at the neck area, which will in turn ensure that there is enough space available for nerve roots to leave the spine.

Posterior Cervical Laminoforaminotomy
In a posterior cervical laminoforaminotomy, your physician will, from the back of the neck, relieve the pressure on the spinal nerves by removing parts of the bone that compresses them.

Artificial Disc Replacement (see right)
Recently approved by the FDA, artificial disc replacement is similar to a hip or knee joint replacement. An artificial disc is inserted in the area where bone is removed, acting as a normal disc would.

Artificial discs:

  • Allow motion to continue after the degenerated disc is removed
  • Can relieve pressure
  • Can widen the spinal canal through which major nerves pass through
  • May restore the high in between vertebral bodies.