Cervical Radiculopathy is a specific compression of a nerve root in the neck. This is a “pinched nerve”, usually a result from a herniated disk or bone spur. It is common to have generalized neck pain, but this pain is focused between the shoulder blades, and then radiates over the shoulder, usually on one side, sometimes both. The more severe the compression, the further the pain goes to the fingers. Each of the roots will have a specific pattern of radiation to give the physician the clues to the source of the problem.
Radiating pain down the arm is the most common presenting complaint. It is frequently associated with numbness or tingling. Muscle weakness in part of the arm is possible and is a significant issue of nerve damage. If the nerve impairment is significant or progressive, early surgery is done to protect and recover the nerve.
This diagnosis is made best by the physician noting the specific patterns of pain distributions and confirmed by an MRI scan. The arm pain is severe, but the presence of a neurologic deficit defines the need for surgery. The most common treatments included anti-inflamatories, physical therapy and commonly epidural steroids to calm the nerves. Most pain resolves in a matter of days to weeks. If the pain continues or the nerve deficit worsens, surgery to decompress the nerve root is recommended.