Kids love to sing songs about how different body parts are connected — the hip bone's connected to the thigh bone, and so on. As an adult, you appreciate how true this is, especially if you’re dealing with problems along your spine.
There’s no better an example of this than cervical radiculopathy, which occurs when a nerve is pinched in your neck, creating problems that extend down into your arms and hands.
As experts in spine health, the team here at Advanced Spine Care and Pain Management has a clear appreciation for the widespread impact that a problem in your spine can have, which includes your neck.
Here, we look at how neck pain can become so much more.
A neck anatomy review
While we may not have a song for this section, we do feel it's important to understand the anatomy in question, in this case, your neck.
At the core of your neck is your cervical spine, which is made up of seven small vertebrae that are separated by intervertebral discs. Not only do these structures support your head, they also provide passage for your central nervous system. In total, there are 31 pairs of spinal nerve roots that exit your spine, eight of which are found in your neck. These nerve roots create the foundation of much of your peripheral nervous system.
When a nerve is pinched
With cervical radiculopathy, one of the nerve roots in your neck is compressed, or pinched, which not only creates symptoms at the immediate site of the compression, but also along the length of the affected nerve.
How this plays out is that when there’s a pinched nerve in your neck, you can feel pain, numbness, and tingling in your shoulder, into your arm, and down as far as your hand. We’re using the singular here, as a pinched nerve usually only leads to symptoms on one side, unless both of the nerve roots are pinched.
While pain, numbness, and tingling are the more common side effects of nerve compression, you may also experience weakness.
How nerves get pinched
The most common reason why people develop cervical radiculopathy is due to degenerative changes in their necks. For example, if a cervical disc succumbs to degenerative disc disease and herniates, you can experience numbness and tingling in your arm and hand. Or, you might have cervical spinal stenosis, a condition in which the spinal canal in your neck is narrowing due to degenerative changes in your spine.
Addressing your pinched nerve
If you’ve developed cervical radiculopathy because of a pinched nerve in your neck, our first recommendations generally include:
- Physical therapy
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
If these conservative measures don’t work, we can try a corticosteroid injection that relieves the inflammation that’s pressing up against the nerve. The injection also contains a local anesthetic for pain relief.
If your symptoms persist, we may recommend surgical intervention, but that’s only if we’ve exhausted other steps first.
For expert diagnosis and management of your cervical radiculopathy, we invite you to contact us at one of our offices in Staten Island or Hartsdale, New York, to schedule a consultation.