Cervical Radiculopathy (Nerve Root Compression)

Radiculopathy refers to pain that is referred from the spinal nerve roots to other parts of the body. Cervical radiculopathy may occur when the spinal nerve roots are irritated or compressed (nerve root compression) by one of many conditions, including disc herniation, spinal stenosis, osteophyte formation, or other degenerative disorders.

Cervical Radiculopathy Symptoms

Cervical radiculopathy symptoms may include pain, tingling, numbness, weakness, and reflex loss. Cervical radiculopathy symptoms may present in the neck, shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers.

Cervical Radiculopathy Diagnosis

Your spine doctor will consider your medical history and symptoms and give you a physical examination, during which the doctor will look for limitations of movement in the spine, problems with balance, and signs of pain, as well as any loss of extremity reflexes, muscle weakness, sensory loss, or abnormal reflexes that may suggest spinal cord involvement.

An MRI or myelography/CT scan can confirm the presence of cervical radiculopathy and determine where it is located.

Cervical Radiculopathy Candidates

Cervical radiculopathy can occur in a wide variety of patients. Younger patients (<50) tend to get this from disc herniations, and older patients can get this from arthritic conditions involving bone spurs.

Nonsurgical treatment of Cervical Radiculopathy

Interventional treatments for cervical radiculopathy may include:

  • Physical therapy and/or exercises for exercises to help relieve the pressure on the nerve root
  • Medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce swelling and pain and analgesics to relieve pain
  • Epidural steroid injections and nerve root injections to help reduce swelling and treat acute pain that radiates to the hips or down the leg

Surgical treatment of Cervical Radiculopathy

If nonsurgical interventional treatment fails to relieve pain, surgical removal of the disc may be reasonable. The disc may be removed from the back of the neck (posterior approach) or from the front (anterior approach).

Some of the surgical procedures used to treat cervical radiculopathy at Emory are: