Cervical radiculopathy, commonly known as “pinched” nerve is caused by injury to the root of a spinal nerve. It is characterized by neck pain that radiates to the shoulder and the arms. As we grow older, the spinal discs bulge and lose height. The vertebrae come closer and the disc collapses forming bone spurs. In this process, the bone spurs make the foramen narrow and pinch the root of the nerve. If these changes are caused as a process of aging, the condition may be referred as arthritis or spondylosis.
The pain caused by this condition is sharp and may even be felt as pin or needle prick. It may worsen with extending the neck or turning the head. The diagnostic tests your doctor may advise include X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and electromyelography.
Often, cervical radiculopathy is treated by nonsurgical treatment methods such as use of soft collars, physical therapy, pain medications, or steroidal injections injected into spine. If the conservative treatments are a failure or if the condition is severe then your doctor may recommend surgical treatment. Surgery is done in order to create more space for the compressed nerves, to maintain stability of the spine and to provide proper alignment to the spine. The three types of procedures that can be done usually for cervical radiculopathy include.
- Anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion
- Posterior cervical laminoforaminotomy
- Artificial disk replacement
History: A 49 year old female presents with left arm pain. She feels a shooting pain from her neck down to her thumb. The pain worsens with turning her neck to the left. It improves when extends her neck and sometimes when she puts her left hand over her head for relief.
Images: This is an example of her MRI which is usually ordered for patients who present similar to this lady. The star points to the spinal cord. The arrow demonstrates a herniated disc that is compressing the nerve root resulting in arm pain.
Surgery: After failing all non operative measures, patient underwent an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion without any complications. In this image you can see plates and screws fixing a bone graft in the disc space.