Are Your Severe Neck Pain Symptoms the Result of a Cervical Radiculopathy?
Posted Nov 10 2008 8:21pm
Patients who present with severe neck pain that is radiating into their shoulders or arms may be diagnosed with a cervical radiculopathy. A cervical radiculopathy includes anything that causes irritation, compression or dysfunction of one or more of the neck nerves. The cervical nerve roots are very sensitive to any type of irritation or any type of pressure- and can cause those nerve roots to not function properly.
What goes on at the nerve root level in the neck can cause many different symptoms. Any type of irritation to the nerve root can cause inflammation which can then cause neck pain. Believe it or not, pressing on a nerve may not cause pain per se, but it can cause neurological deficits.
Each of the cervical nerve root has 3 components: 1) sensory 2) motor 3) reflex. When we say compression of a nerve root could cause neurological deficits, the sensory, motor or reflex component may be affected. Each nerve in the neck controls certain muscles, certain feelings/sensations in areas of the neck and upper shoulders and certain reflexes.
Radiculopathy can be caused by different things- and often times it is important to distinguish a radiculopathy from other conditions such as trigger points or even thoracic outlet syndrome.
The cervical level in which radiculopathy occurs most often is at C6 and C7 nerve root level.
To diagnose a radiculopathy, it is important to have a proper history and consultation with your Doctor. What caused this pain? What is the pain level? Does the neck pain travel into the arms ? Does the pain cause numbness and tingling anywhere? Your doctor will determine what level the radiculopathy is taking place by looking at sensory changes such as feeling altered sensations or tingling, decreased or absent reflexes, and weakness in certain muscles. This goes back to looking at the sensory, motor and reflex aspect of each cervical nerve root. So the first step in understanding a cervical radiculopathy, is to see your Doctor for a proper consultation, history and examination. You may also be sent out for specific imaging studies such as a cervical MRI.
I will discuss more about specific details about what can cause a radiculopathy, what symptoms present at certain levels and how to treat this type of neck pain in the next few blog posts. If you have specific questions about a cervical radiculopathy, please email me at neckpainsupport[at]gmail.com, replace [at] with “@” - NJ