Signs Your Neck Pain Is Actually Cervical Radiculopathy
Your neck is a complicated part of your anatomy. Its the hub of several nerve roots that branch out from your spinal cord and allow your shoulders, arms, and hands to feel and move. If those nerves become damaged or inflamed, you have a condition called cervical radiculopathy the umbrella term used to describe changes in nerve function in your cervical, or neck, region.
Dr. Jay M. Shah at the Samwell Institute for Pain Management understands the complexities of cervical radiculopathy and can help you get to the bottom of your nerve pain. Using the latest technology in his state-of-the-art facilities, Dr. Shah accurately diagnoses the source of your nerve damage and designs a treatment plan to help you overcome chronic, debilitating pain.
Possible Sources Of Radiating Neck Pain
Similar to how the sciatic nerve can cause radiating lower back pain, the radicular nerve in your neck can cause radiating pain referred to as cervical radiculopathy. Motor and sensory functions are controlled by eight nerve roots running from the neck along your shoulders, arms, and hands. Problems with any of these nerve roots may result in hand pain that can range from mild and intermittent to sharp and persistent.
What Is The Cervical Spine
The cervical spine is the neck region of your spinal column. It’s made up of seven small, highly mobile bones, and their associated ligaments, muscles, and shock-absorbing discs.
Anything that aggravates or comes into contact with your spinal nerve roots can lead to radiculopathy, and that includes several common conditions in which growths or abnormalities cause something to invade the space of the nerve root.
- Herniated disc: The shock-absorbing discs between vertebrae can become damaged and may develop a bulge and/or leak fluid.
- Synovial cyst: These lumps are caused by a buildup of joint fluid that forms a sac.
- Bone spur: An extra bit of bone forms in response to damage or chronic inflammation.
- Cervical spondylosis : This condition involves the formation of bone spurs in the neck.
- Spinal stenosis: An advanced stage of spinal arthritis, stenosis occurs when the spaces in the spine become narrowed, usually due to excess bone growth.
- Degenerative disc disease : Discs between vertebrae erode and fray over time, which may cause a herniated disc. In cases of severe degeneration, bone-on-bone contact can cause bone spurs in the joint.
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Causes Of Neck And Arm Pain
Posted by Dr. Chris
It is not uncommon for neck and arm pain to occur together and it may or may not be related to the same cause. In fact there are many reasons why neck and arm pain occur together and it is often related to a problem in one part also affecting the other and vice versa. Most of the time it is related to injury or strain but there are instances where neck and arm pain can be a symptom of a life-threatening condition, like a heart attack.
Why Your Neck Could Be Causing Your Hand Pain
We have all had a pain in our hand at some point in our lives, whether it is from writing with a pencil too much in elementary school, resting the arm in a position that causes the hand or arm to fall asleep, or pain from overuse. If hand pain continues, then an underlying medical condition may be present.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most widely known reason for hand pain, along with rheumatoid arthritis and systemic disease. However, many people dont realize that the pain in their hand can stem from a problem in their neck.
The spine is full of nerves that control the body, from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet. When one of these nerve roots inside the cervical spine becomes irritated or compressed, symptoms can appear in the arm, hand, or fingers. The pain that travels down the radicular nerve is called a cervical radiculopathy.
Beginning with the top of the spine, each vertebra in the upper region is numbered beginning with C1 down to C7. From these points, eight nerve roots exit the spine and spread out to feed the nerve pathways. The shoulders, arms, and hand nerves are fed from these vertebrae.
The symptoms of pain from the cervical vertebrae can vary from person to person. Some people report pain that is mild and achy where others report a sharp and shock-like pain. Numbness or a tingling feeling can also be reported.
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Common Symptoms Of A Pinched Nerve
A pinched nerve in your neck occurs when soft tissues in the body apply too much pressure to a nerve and restrict its ability to function properly. Bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and cartilage can all press against a nerve, causing irritation, inflammation and pain. The most common places for a pinched nerve to develop are in your low back and neck, where nerve roots travel out of the spinal canal and send sensations to other areas of your body.
What causes a pinched nerve in the neck or back? A bulging or herniated disc, inflammation and degenerative changes from arthritis, bone spurs, a back injury, chronic stress from repetitive movements or obesity can all cause soft tissues to compress a nerve or the spinal cord. Aging, being overweight, playing high-impact sports or having a job that requires physically demanding, repetitive work can all increase your risk of developing a pinched nerve.
If youre experiencing unexplained back or neck pain, keep reading to learn 5 symptoms that may indicate you have a pinched nerve.
The Best Ways To Get Rid Of Neck Pain:
You may be able to get rid of your neck pain naturally and avoid surgery. Now the question is how can you do it? : First, lets identify the source of your pain. Do you feel sharp pain, or general pain? If you have a sharp pain, you need to find out the root cause. What makes you feel this pain? Is it muscle tension? Stress? Or, Excessive use of your neck muscles?
The best way to get rid of pain is to find out the cause of your pain. For this which you have to do is make a list of the works you are doing daily that increase your neck and back pain. Now, try to do something else by removing one by one work from the list. For example, if you have neck pain due to working in front of the computer for hours every day, then stop using the computer until your neck pain is under control.
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Injuries That Cause Neck Pain
Minor injuries may occur from tripping or falling a short distance or from excessive motion of the cervical spine.
Severe neck injuries may occur from:
- Whiplash in a car accident.
- Falls from significant heights.
Some medicines can cause neck pain as a side effect.
Sometimes, neck pain may not have a clear cause.
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This content is not a substitute for expert medical advice or diagnosis and is for educational purposes only.
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How Is A Pinched Nerve Diagnosed
Youll want to visit a healthcare provider about your pinched nerve if its not responding to conservative treatment at home. To find the source of the pinched nerve, providers physically examine your neck, arms, shoulders, and wrist and hands. Theyll look for muscle weakness, test change in reflexes and ask about the different sensations youre feeling.
If necessary, you may be asked to undergo one or more of these procedures to track the source of the problem:
- X-ray: An X-ray can show narrowing and changing alignment of the spinal cord, and fractures.
- Computed tomography scan: A CT shows 3D images and more detail of the spine than an X-ray.
- Magnetic resonance imaging : An MRI can show if damage to soft tissues are causing the nerve compression, or if there is damage to the spinal cord.
- Electromyography : Electrical impulses of muscles measured by an EMG, along with nerve conduction studies, can help determine if a nerve is working normally. This helps your provider see if symptoms are caused by pressure on spinal nerve roots, or if nerve damage is caused by another condition like diabetes.
What Are The Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of neck pain may be stiffness, tightness, aching, burning or stabbing or shooting pains, pressure, or tingling. Muscles can feel sore or tense in the neck, face, or shoulders. Muscles can spasm when they go into a state of extreme contraction . Movement may be restricted â perhaps you cannot turn your head. If nerves are involved, pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness may develop in your shoulders, arms or hands.
Several situations signal the need for prompt medical attention. If nerve compression is severe, symptoms can include pain, numbness, tingling in the arms or legs, loss of bladder or bowel control, or loss of strength and problems with coordination.
Neck pain along with a severe headache, fever, or nausea could be a sign of infection or a bleed in the brain. If your neck is so stiff that you can’t touch your chin to chest, seek medical help immediately.
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Corpectomy And Strut Graft
Perhaps a more popular procedure for removing the pressure on the spinal cordcausing spinal stenosis and cervical myelopathy is to remove the front of thespinal canal. This means that the large part of several of the vertebrae mustbe removed – the vertebral bodies and the discs between. This procedure is called a corpectomy. “Corpus” means body and “ectomy” means remove. Oncethe vertebral bodies have been removed, the space must be filled with something.Again, just as in the anterior cervical fusion, this space is usually filledwith a bone graft. Some type of internal fixation is usually required to holdthe vertebrae and the bone graft in place. You will probably also need to beplaced in a halo jacket to hold your head perfectly still while the healingoccurs and the vertebrae fuse. This is a very uncommon procedure.
How Can I Tell If My Symptoms Are Coming From My Neck
Lets perform an experiment to see if we can figure it out.
- Notice what you feel in your arm right now. Is it numb? Tingling? Shooting pains? How intense is it?
- Now, look down at your left foot, then look down at your right foot. Any changes in how you feel? Better, worse or no different?
- Look up as if a bird flew over your left shoulder. Now, do the same for the right shoulder. Any change in how you feel? Better, worse or no different?
IF THE POSITION OF YOUR HEAD/NECK CHANGES HOW YOU FEEL IN YOUR HAND, THE PROBLEM COULD BE COMING FROM YOUR NECK. LETS TRY ONE MORE THING.
Reach with one arm as if you are the driver of a car reaching behind the passenger seat. Is that better, worse or no different? What if you reach with the other arm in the same way? Any change in how you feel in your hand with that motion?
The nerves in your arm can be stretched by reaching motions and may indicate nerve irritation somewhere along their path possibly at the neck or down your arm.
If you experience hand numbness, tingling, pain or weakness with motion of your neck or reaching behind you with your arm, an evaluation by a hand surgeon may help to identify if the source is from your neck. A certified hand therapist can teach you ways to reduce nerve compression and tension.
Contact BoulderCentre 449-2730 for your hand therapy appointment with one of our specialists Sally Brown, Bridget Myers or Charla Stilling.
See all of BoulderCentres Physical Therapists.
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Pinched Nerve From A Herniated Disc
Injury to the disc may occur when neck motion puts too much pressure on thedisc. One of the most painful injuries that can occur is a herniated disc. Inthis injury, the tear in the annulus is so bad that part of the nucleus pulposussqueezes out of the center of the disc. The annulus can tear or rupture anywherearound the disc. If it tears on the side next to the spinal canal, then whenthe nucleus pulposus squeezes out, it can press against the spinal nerves. Pressureon the nerve root from a herniated disc can cause pain, numbness, and weaknessalong the nerve. There is also evidence that the chemicals released from theruptured disc may irritate the nerve root, leading to some of the symptoms ofa herniated disc – especially pain.
Herniated discs are more common in early, middle-aged adults. This conditionmay occur when too much force is exerted on an otherwise healthy intervertebraldisc. An example would be a car accident where your head hit the windshield.The force on the neck is simply too much for even a healthy disc to absorb andinjury is the result. A herniated disc may also occur in a disc that has beenweakened by the degenerative process. Once weakened, less force is needed tocause the disc to tear or rupture. However, not everyone with a ruptured dischas degenerative disc disease. Likewise, not everyone with degenerative discdisease will suffer a ruptured disc.
Conditions That May Cause Radiculopathy
Cervical radiculopathy is commonly caused by one or more of the following conditions:
- Cervical degenerative disc disease. When the intervertebral discs lose hydration with age, they can start to flatten out and the foramina may narrow where the spinal nerves exit the spinal canal.
Cervical radiculopathy can cause signs and/or symptoms anywhere from the neck down through the arms and into the fingers. The exact location of pain, tingling, numbness, and/or weakness depends on which cervical nerve root is compressed. For example, compression of the C7 nerve may lead to symptoms that are experienced more in the triceps and/or into the middle part of the hand.1
Cervical radiculopathy signs and symptoms are typically one-sided, such as going down one arm. It is also possible for nerves to be compressed on both sides of the neck and have bilateral symptoms of cervical radiculopathy.
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Ways To Relieve Pain From A Shoulder Problem
If these measures fail to bring relief, you may need an MRI of your shoulder. If that shows a torn rotator cuff, then shoulder surgery may be necessary, says Dr. Ricchetti. If the physical exam and imaging indicate arthritis or a nerve-related pain in your neck, he recommends referral to a spine specialist. Spine specialists will conduct a thorough neurological examination, and do imaging and other tests. They will also begin with conservative care.
What Is Cervical Radiculopathy
Cervical radiculopathy describes pain or tingling in the arms, hands or fingers that is the result of a condition that irritates a nerve in the spinal column in particular, in the neck . Cervical Radiculopathy is a disease of the root of a nerve in the cervical spine, possibly from a pinched nerve or a tumor, that becomes inflamed or damaged. This results in a change in neurological function such as numbness, altered reflexes, or weakness. Pain can radiate anywhere from the neck into the shoulder, arm, hand, or fingers.
This condition is an irritation or compression of one or more nerve roots in the cervical spine. Because these nerves travel to the shoulders, arms and hands, an injury in the cervical spine can cause symptoms in these areas. Cervical radiculopathy may result from a variety of problems with the bones and tissues of the cervical spinal column.
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Get Moving But Carefully
- Ease back into your normal daily activities as soon as you can. Movement helps your muscles stay strong.
- Avoid activities such as lifting and sports that make pain and stiffness worse.
- Do stretching and strengthening exercises to keep your neck flexible and strong and prevent stiffness.
- Avoid or change any activities that may be causing your neck pain, such as sitting for a long time at the computer or doing too much overhead work at a time.
- Gently massage or rub the area to relieve pain and encourage blood flow. Don’t massage the injured area if it causes pain. Nonprescription creams or gels, such as Bengay, may provide pain relief.
Can Neck Pain Be A Cause Of Something Serious
Neck pain is a common complaint for a large portion of the population at any age. This kind of pain can often be debilitating and can make performing even the most simple tasks extremely difficult. It can spring from serious back or nerve issues such as a pinched nerve, herniated disc, or underlying spinal/vertebrae issues.
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