For the C6 nerve root to be affected, there must be something going on in between C5 and C6 vertebrae (bones). AkA: a C5-C6 disc herniation or C5-C6 disc bulge
The C6 nerve root has a motor, sensory and reflex component. This means that they control your muscles, your sensations and your reflexes. If there is a herniation or a bulge at this level, it can result in weakness, numbness and tingling as well as pain. Lets look at these 3 components for the C6 nerve root, the most common location for a disc herniation.
What muscles are affected? If the C6 nerve root is affected it can affects mainly the biceps and wrist extensor muscles. You may have difficulty bending your arm at the elbow. Picking up a bag of groceries may be difficult. Activities that involve the shoulder joint would also be difficult. For example moving the arm away from the body at the shoulder jt (abduction) or toward the body (adduction). These may be the first muscles that come to mind, but you would be surprised at all the muscles that the C6 nerve root innervates. This list includes the 4 muscles that make up the rotator cuff group and many muscles of the distal arm:
Deltoid (shoulder muscle)
Subscapularis (a rotator cuff muscle)
Teres Minor(a rotator cuff muscle)
Infraspinatus (a rotator cuff muscle)
Supraspinatus (a rotator cuff muscle)
Extensor Muscles (image the position of your arms and wrists when riding a motorcycle)- includes: Extensor carpi radialis brevis, Extensor carpi radialis longus, and Extensor pollicis brevis
Flexor carpi radialis
You can have pain along the lower arm into the thumb and index finger. This can be described as “pins and needles”, numbness and even a tingling sensation. Finally, the reflex that is affected is called the pronator reflex. When your Doctor checks it, it may be diminished or absent on that side. The C6 nerve is the most common nerve that is affected when someone has a disc herniation.
A herniated disc in the neck is often one cause for neck pain and arm pain. Often times, patients seek treatment from thier primay care physician, chiropractor, or osteopath. Studies have shown that it commonly develops in patients between ages 30 to 50. Where does a disc herniation come from, you may find yourself asking?. One common way may be a trauma or an injury. Symptoms often include neck pain, neck stiffness, numbness and tingling and arm/hand pain. As you can see from the list of muscles that are innervated by C6 nerve root- nerve roots play an all encompassing role in the function of your body and well being.