The nerves branching off the spinal cord in the neck and elsewhere are well protected. But injuries can still occur, and when they do, inflammation of the nerve root (the spot where a nerve branches off from the spinal cord) can cause severe pain in your neck and shoulders – and elsewhere.
Symptoms of Cervical Radiculopathy
In many cases, damage to the nerve roots that branch from the spinal cord in the neck region causes, in addition to pain in the neck itself, pain, numbness, or tingling in the arms (brachialgia) or upper body. Obviously, if you notice such symptoms, you need to seek expert help promptly.
What Causes Cervical Radiculopathy – Pinched Nerve Problems?
The cause of this kind of problem may be a minor and temporary inflammation of the tissues surrounding the spot where the nerve slips between the vertebrae. This is popularly called a pinched or trapped nerve, known by doctors as cervical radiculopathy. Because pairs of nerves leave the spinal cord through gaps between the vertebrae, they can be easily compressed by injuries to a facet joint or to an intervertebral disc.
Various other conditions can cause a pinched nerve. One is spinal stenosis. Another is osteoarthritis, which often occurs with spinal stenosis and is almost inevitable part of the aging process. In some people, small spur-like deposits of calcium, the mineral from which bone is formed, develop on and around the vertebrae. When these bony spurs, known as osteophytes, put pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots, the pain can be excruciating.
There are no specific measures you can take to prevent nerve root problems in the neck. Keep your neck flexible and strong by practicing the exercises.
Figuring Out What is Wrong With me?
As well as asking you about your symptoms, your doctor will assess your range of movements, and may well arrange for you to have X-rays or MRI scans to view the bones and soft-tissues in your neck.
Fixing Cervical Radiculopathy – Pinched Nerve
Where pain is a main symptom, painkillers and nonsteroidal drugs are often only treatment required. In some cases, stronger pain relief medication may be prescribed. Muscle relaxants are also effective for some people. Anti-inflammatory injection may be administered to block nerve signals in the affected area.
Your doctor may refer you to a physiotherapist for therapies such as traction on the head, other forms for general manipulation or exercises, and possible ultrasound treatment.
If disc pain lasts more than a few weeks, gets progressively worse, or other causes problems with mobility, surgery may be an option. Often a surgeon can remove just the protruding portion of the disc.