Our pain management specialists provide a quick recovery from cervical radiculopathy or pinched nerve using the latest non-surgical treatment options, including trigger point injections, epidural, medial branch block, facet joint injections, physical therapy, and chiropractic care. As experts in cervical radiculopathy treatments, we can pinpoint the source of your pain and prescribe a personalized, time-tested treatment plan that focuses on your specific level of pain and impingement. Visit our pain management clinic and meet our physicians to get the nerve impingement pain relief you need in the safe, reassuring hands of New York’s best pain doctor, Dr. Raj Raval, MD, located in Downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan.
What is Cervical Radiculopathy?
Cervical radiculopathy is a term that most people haven’t heard of the more common term for this is condition is a pinched nerve. This is a condition most people are familiar with and many of you might be thinking, “Oh yes, I’ve had that.” Cervical radiculopathy is really just that, a nerve in your neck that is pinched, impinged, or compressed.
The good news is that people with cervical radiculopathy don’t need to suffer from these symptoms. There are several different paths to pain relief available to people in the New York, NY area. At Downtown Pain Physicians, our doctors will do a thorough examination to determine what is causing your symptoms. They will listen to you and reference state-of-the-art diagnostic tools to determine what combination of treatments will work best for you. The goal is to curate a treatment plan that’s customized to give you the best results.
What’s Happening When I Have a Pinched Nerve?
Your neck, or the cervical spine, is made up of seven vertebrae between the base of your skull and your shoulders. In between the vertebrae are discs that provide a cushion between those neck bones. These discs and vertebrae protect the nerves and membranes, or the spinal cord, that runs through your spine and out to all areas of your body. It’s basically the central nervous system highway.
If the nerves that branch out of your neck to other areas of your body are pinched, they can either respond by causing you pain or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, creating a loss of sensation. These are both signals to you that something is wrong, and your nerves are not working the way they’re supposed to.
What Are the Symptoms of Cervical Radiculopathy?
Cervical radiculopathy is very interesting because it doesn’t always come with the same symptoms. In fact, the same person can have a pinched nerve in their neck once and suffer a lot of neck pain, the second time they might have no pain at all and just numbness in their hand or fingers.
That’s one of the reasons it can be difficult for a patient to figure out what’s going on without seeing a professional at Downtown Pain Physicians. Some of the symptoms you might experience, alone or in combination with each other, include:
- A tingling or a pins-and-needles feeling
- Pain that is constant or pain that throbs or moves
- Numbness or a loss of sensation
Cervical radiculopathy symptoms affect the area from your neck into your shoulders and upper back and down your arms into your fingers. Your symptoms may only be experienced in one area or on one side of your body.
Neurological Symptoms of Cervical Radiculopathy
Most cervical radiculopathy symptoms occur on one side. This is because the nerve is typically only pinched in one area. If the nerve impingement is left to linger, it can cause a worsening of symptoms and additional problems. Some of the neurological deficits you might experience with any pinched nerve in the neck include:
- Sensory problems can include a feeling of numbness, reduced sensation, an electrical shock feeling, or persistent tingling.
- Motor problems include weakness and, in some situations, can even cause a lack of coordination and an inability to lift or grip items.
- The reflexes can also be affected with a slower than normal response to hot and cold stimuli. Your doctor may also notice a reduced automatic reflex when the elbow is tapped with a rubber hammer.
What makes cervical radiculopathy so frustrating and debilitating is that your cervical nerve roots contain both motor and sensory fibers. That means they control what you feel and your movements. A pinched cervical nerve root can affect your sensory fibers, motor fibers, or both. This is why you can have such an array of symptoms and the same person can have pain one time and the next time they might have no pain but experience weakness.
Causes of Cervical Radiculopathy
Cervical radiculopathy happens when a cervical nerve root is compressed or irritated. There are two main ways this can happen; one is an injury or illness and the other is long-term degenerative changes in your spine and the discs that are meant to protect your nerves.
Causes of neck pain and cervical radiculopathy that relate to aging and physical changes include:
- Cervical foraminal stenosis is a narrowing of the foramen, which are the little bony openings that your nerves branch out of.
- Cervical disc herniation or a bulging disc that puts pressure on the nerves.
- Osteoarthritis in the neck region causes the bones to change and compress, putting more stress on the nerves.
- Bone spurs or osteophytes in the vertebrae of the neck are a bony build-up that creates pressure spots where they’re not supposed to be.
- Thickening ligaments can be caused by several different factors but when this happens there is not enough space for the nerves to function adequately.
Cervical radiculopathy changes that happen to younger people or those without spinal conditions are typically injury or illness related and they include:
- Herniated discs or even ruptured discs can happen through aging, repetitive movements, or an injury. When this happens the disc between the vertebrae “escapes” from its normal position and presses on your nerves. It’s key to know that bulging, ruptured, and herniated discs can happen from something as innocuous as bending, twisting, pulling, or lifting with your back and not your legs.
- Tumors caused by cancer is an example of an illness that can cause cervical radiculopathy as the tumors compromise the space available for the nerves to function properly.
- Benign or noncancerous growths can also cause neck pain and neurological deficits from a pinched nerve, much the same as cancerous tumors can.
- Fractures to the vertebrae in your neck or spondylolisthesis, which is a shifting of the vertebra, can narrow the foramen and pinch a nerve.
- Sarcoidosis is a rare disease that causes the growth of inflammatory cells in the body. It can cause pains in different areas, including the neck.
- Spinal infections are pretty rare, but they can cause pinched nerves in the neck and you should be seen by a doctor if you suspect this is the cause of your pain.
Risk Factors of Cervical Radiculopathy
There’s really no way to ensure you’ll never suffer from cervical radiculopathy. There are some factors that do seem to be related to a higher incidence of pinched nerves. Some of these risk factors are within your control and others you can’t do anything about.
- Being Caucasian is actually considered a risk factor and there is obviously nothing you can do about this one.
- Age is definitely not on your side here as most cervical radiculopathy cases come from conditions that are ultimately related to aging.
- Smoking is one risk factor that is within your control. If you’re able to kick the smoking habit, you might reduce the chance that you’ll suffer from cervical radiculopathy at some point in your life.
- Having a prior instance of radiculopathy, unfortunately, makes you more susceptible to having it again.
- Heavy lifting is frequently the cause of disc herniation which leads to pinched nerves in many cases. Learning to lift correctly, using a buddy method of lifting, or opting to lift less can help you avoid this type of neck pain.
- Sporting activities, specifically golf and diving from a high dive are closely affiliated with this type of nerve pain. If you want to quit them to reduce your odds you can, but most people prefer not to cut these activities out of their lives.
- Interestingly, repetitive vibrations seem to lead to a higher chance of getting cervical radiculopathy. This is meant for people who drive heavy trucks or equipment or operate jackhammers routinely.
Dr. Raval is very kind and explains everything in layman’s terms, which is super helpful. Thanks so much, guys! 🙂
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Diagnosis of Cervical Radiculopathy
The first step if you suspect cervical radiculopathy and you live in the New York area is to visit Downtown Pain Physicians. There you’ll meet doctors who are specially trained in diagnosing cervical radiculopathy and treating your pinched nerve. Your doctor will listen to you as you describe your symptoms and health history. They will then do a physical examination of your neck, shoulders, upper back, arms, and hands. If necessary, they may also perform the following diagnostic tests:
- X-rays to look for any bone abnormalities in your cervical spine.
- CT scans might be used to get a more detailed look at what is happening in your spine and the small foramen openings.
- MRI scans give doctors a view of your nerve roots and other soft tissues so they can look for damage.
- Electromyography (EMG) shows how your muscles work when they are at rest and when they’re being used. This can detect muscle inefficiencies or weaknesses. EMG evaluation is done in our office, book an appointment today.
Treatments for Cervical Radiculopathy
If it’s determined that you do indeed have cervical radiculopathy, there are some different treatment options available. At Downtown Pain Physicians, we use a combination of approaches to customize your treatment plan for the best results. Some options you may encounter for your pinched nerve include:
- Physical therapy and muscle exercises
- Chiropractic treatments to realign any spinal subluxations
- Over-the-counter or prescription medications
- Trigger point injections
- Epidural steroid injections
- Medial branch block injections
- Facet joint injections
The physicians at Downtown Pain Physicians will typically begin with conservative, non-surgical cervical radiculopathy treatments that focus on your specific level of pain and impingement. Together you will discuss the progress you’re making and if there needs to be an adjustment to your treatment plan. Your doctor’s goal is to improve your condition in the fastest timeframe possible with the least invasive treatment plan.
The information on this website is to provide general information. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive treatment advice. It is essential to consult a best-in-class pain management specialist in New York regarding ANY questions or issues. A thorough evaluation should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call your pain doctor to schedule a consultation.
Dr. Raj Raval, M.D.
- Board Certified
- Interventional Pain & Musculoskeletal Medicine Specialist
Education & training
- SUNY Downstate PMR Residency
- Rutgers University Fellowship