A pinched nerve in the neck, oftentimes medically classified as cervical radiculopathy, is a somewhat common condition that can develop for a number of different reasons. The most common cause of cervical radiculopathy is as a result of arthritis or degenerative changes in our spine that leads to nerve compression. Caught early enough, it usually responds well to conservative treatment, but care varies from patient to patient.
Causes and Symptoms
As we mentioned above, the most common cause for a pinched nerve in your neck is due to degenerative changes. Over the years our spinal vertebrae and discs wear down and shift, and if they move too far out of place or herniate, they can compress nerves or other vital structures. When this occurs in the neck, cervical radiculopathy develops. Outside of wear and tear, another common cause of a pinched nerve is due to an inflammatory response from the body.
Symptoms can vary a bit, but the most common associated with a pinched nerve in your neck include:
- Localized pain
- Pain that radiates down your arm, shoulder or leg
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness or limited sensation
- Loss of range of motion
Diagnosing and Treating Cervical Radioculopathy
If you’re dealing with any of the above symptoms, or you have pain in your neck, consider reaching out to your primary care specialist or a neurospecialist like Dr. Chang in your area. They’ll begin by conducting a physical examine and asking you about your symptoms. They’ll look for signs of muscle weakness or tightness in your neck, shoulders and arms, and they may ask you to conduct some movement exercises to see if any actions lead to restricted movement.
Your doctor may also conduct some imaging tests to pinpoint the location of compression using techniques like an X-ray, CT scan or MRI. Once you’ve been diagnosed, your doctor will walk you through some of the more common treatment techniques. As we noted in the intro, conservative care is usually all that is needed to treat a pinched neck nerve. Common conservative techniques include:
- Targeted physical therapy
- Stretching techniques
- Steroid injections
- Soft brace or collar
Most doctors will want you to try six to eight weeks of a conservative care program before they’ll consider surgery, but this can be altered if the compression is severe or potentially dangerous for your health. The goal of cervical radiculopathy surgery is to free the compression, maintain the stability of the spine and preserve the range of motion of the neck. There are a couple different surgical techniques that can accomplish all these tasks, but your surgeon can walk you through the specifics of each operation should a procedure become necessary.
For more information about the causes and treatments for cervical pinched nerves, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office today.