There are seven small vertebrae that begin at the base of the skull and form our neck – this is the cervical spine. The cervical nerve roots, from C1 through C8, exit the cervical spine and branch out to supply muscles that enable functioning of the upper extremities (shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers). They also carry sensory fibers to the skin that provide sensation.
When any nerve root of the cervical spine is irritated through compression, irritation or inflammation, symptoms of pain, tingling, numbness, and/or weakness can radiate anywhere along that nerve’s pathway into the shoulder, arm, hand and/or the fingers. In medical term, this is called a cervical radiculopathy, or more commonly known as a “pinched nerve” when a nerve in the neck is compressed or irritated.
Cervical radiculopathy most commonly appear intermittently in the beginning. This means the symptom comes and goes, but they could also develop suddenly or gradually. When the condition deteriorates, the individual normally experiences constant symptoms.
Basically, any condition that can compresses or irritates a cervical nerve will cause cervical radiculopathy. This radicular pain is frequently exacerbated by any manoeuvre that raises the tension along the course of the spinal nerve. For example, a radial nerve tension test can aggravate radiculopathy along the radial nerve. This orthopaedic examination will be carried out by the Chiropractor is radiculopathy is suspected. Axial compression may also reproduce or aggravate the symptom of radicular pain.
Some possible and common causes of radiculopathy, in their order of prevalence, include:
Herniated disc with nerve compression – by far the most common cause of radiculopathy
Spinal stenosis – more common in elderly adults
Nerve root injuries (Whiplash injuries)
Scar tissue from previous spinal surgery that is affecting the nerve root
Can Chiropractic help with your cervical radiculopathy?
There are many different treatment options available for cervical radiculopathy; recommendations depend on your level of pain, length of symptoms, and degree of abnormal findings on exam. Treatment for cervical radiculopathy can be non-surgical. However, if nerve root irritation is too advanced, you might be referred to an orthopaedic doctor to discuss some other invasive options.
Chiropractors are highly trained to diagnose, treat, and manage this problem effectively and conservatively without surgical procedure. Manual/physical therapy can be beneficial in many cases to treat cervical radiculopathy. Calming pain and inflammation, increasing mobility, and improving stability and strength are often the priority step in managing the radiculopathy. All these can be achieved through spinal rehabilitation including cervical traction, manual manipulation, ultrasound, electric stimulation.
Many studies have shown great effectiveness in the treatment of radicular pain with Chiropractic Spinal Manipulation. Conservation treatment methods like spinal manipulation to improve joint motion restrictions, and spinal traction have been well documented to improve patient’s radicular pain.
- Chiropractic treatment of cervical radiculopathy caused by a herniated cervical disc. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8169540