Treatment For Cervical Radiculopathy

12 Treatments For Cervical Radiculopathy Include

  1. Ice
  2. Heat
  3. Stretching
  4. Strength Training
  5. Massage
  6. Joint Mobilization
  7. Traction
  8. Laser Therapy
  9. Oral Medications
  10. Injections
  11. Nerve ablation
  12. Surgery

The treatment options vary based on:

  • Severity
  • How Long It has hurt
  • Overall health
  • Functional limitations

Watch this VIDEO to learn about a Pinched Nerve In The Neck. To learn more about Cervical Radiculopathy, keep scrolling.

There are many ways to treat a cervical radiculopathy or radicular neck pain. The treatment depends on several factors.Treatment for Cervical Radiculopathy

What is Cervical Radiculopathy?

The quick answer is that Cervical Radiculopathy is a condition in the neck that causes symptoms to radiate down the arm. The "radiating" symptoms tend to follow the nerve patterns that start in the neck and run to the arm. Neurological symptoms from cervical radiculopathy may include:

  • Loss of Strength
  • Loss of Sensation
  • Loss of Reflexes

Other symptoms in the arm that may come from the neck include:

  • Pain
  • Tingling

The neck or cervical spine has 7 bones or vertebrae.Front of cervical anatomy

Anatomy of The Cervical Spine

The  cervical spine is made up of 7 bones called vertebrae.  The bones are stacked and numbered 1 through 7 starting at the top.  The bones of the neck allow movement in many directions to allow for head movement. 

The neck bones are connected by a disk that cushions and maintains the space between the vertebrae.  The disk, along with 2 facet joint (one on each side) allow for movement of each individual spine segment.

This image illustrates a herniated disk in the lumbar spine but the same issues can occur in the neck.Herniated Disk Anatomy example in Lumbar Spine

The Spinal Cord travels through the an opening in the neck bones and runs from the brain to the lower back area.  Nerves branch off of the spinal cord and exit between each vertebrae through a space call the lateral foramen. The nerves pass closely to the facet joints and discs.

Inflammation in neck structures can cause symptoms along the nerve. This means that the area where the nerve travels may have symptoms as well. In the neck, the symptoms are usually in the shoulder blade or arm/hand since the neck nerves travel to those areas. 

Causes of Neck Radiculopathy

Radiating symptoms from the neck can come from several issues including:

  • Disk Herniation
  • Facet joint pain
  • Nerve root compression
  • Spondylosis
  • Degenerative joint or disk disease

Any of these conditions can cause inflammation which can lead to neck injury symptoms of radiculopathy.  If the structures are altered by injury or excessive wear and tear, There can be compression of nerves.  This can lead to radiating symptoms.  

Radiculopathy is often referred to as a pinched nerve in the neck.

Can Shoulder Pain Come From The Neck?

The quick answer is yes, shoulder pain can come from the neck. The spinal nerve that passes between C4 and C5 supplies the shoulder area.  Irritation of that nerve can cause shoulder pain. Other spine levels may affect the shoulder as well.  

How Do You Know if Your Shoulder Pain is Coming from the Neck?

The quick answer is that usually, shoulder pain from the neck changes with neck movements. Some cervical positions may increase the pain while other neck positions decrease the pain. In general, true shoulder issues will be painful with shoulder movements. This is not an absolute rule though.  

It is not uncommon to have issues in both the shoulder and the neck at the same time.

Left shoulder pain can be a symptom of heart issues so if you have new symptoms of pain in the left shoulder or arm that does not change with shoulder or neck movement, it's best to see a doctor quickly.  

Shoulder Blade Pain from Neck

Issues in the lower cervical spine can commonly cause pain in the shoulder blade on the side of the neck issue. This may include:

  • Muscle spasms between the shoulder blades
  • Aching
  • Tightness/stiffness

To learn more about Pain Between the Shoulder Blades, click HERE.

Image of the spine and the vertebrae that make up the spine. Spinal Anatomy

What is the Difference Between Radiculopathy and Cervical Radiculitis?

The quick answer is:

  • Cervical Radiculopathy involves actual Compression of a Spinal Nerve
  • Cervical Radiculitis Involves irritation of a Spinal Nerve

Both can cause radiating symptoms. Radiculopathy may cause symptoms of loss of motor or sensory function.

Can The Neck Cause Leg Symptoms?

The quick answer is typically no, due to the nerves leaving the neck do not travel to the legs.  In severe cases, a neck structure can compress or damage the spinal cord in the neck area.  This can lead to weakness or movement issues in the legs.  This condition is referred to as a Cervical Myelopathy.  

Cervical Myelopathy is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention.  Other symptoms may include loss of bowel or bladder control.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome From the Neck

True Carpal Tunnel Syndrome comes from compression on the Median Nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel at the wrist.  Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can cause pain, burning, and numbness in the hand and first 3 fingers.  

Cervical radiculopathy of the C6 and C7 nerve roots can cause similar symptoms in the hand.  A physical exam, x-rays and nerve conduction studies are sometime used to determine if the symptoms are from the carpal tunnel or the neck.  

To learn more about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, watch this VIDEO.

How Do You Fix Cervical Radiculopathy?

With new symptoms of cervical radiculopathy, most people are treated with anti-inflammatory medications and gentle physical therapy. The goal is to calm inflammation and to centralize the symptoms back to the source in the neck.  

Physical therapy may include gentle manual therapy, traction, and heat or cold treatments.  Exercises are uses to increase movement and encourage healing. 

If symptoms continue, your doctor may order an MRI to determine the cause and the severity of the cervical radiculopathy.  This helps to determine the next line of treatment which may include X-ray guided steroid injections.

If conservative measures do not fix the problem, a surgeon may need to determine whether surgery is needed to correct the neck issue. 

Home Remedy for Cervical Radiculopathy

If you think you have a cervical radiculopathy, try avoiding movements that increase the symptoms.  It is important to realize that stretching or forcing the neck into positions that increase the pain may may the problem worse during the acute phase. 

Try gently turning the head side to side without reproducing pain. 

Some people get relief from doing chin retractions.  Pull the neck back like you are making a "double chin" repeat 10x.  Stop if pain or symptoms increase. 

Neck retraction exercise

A warm shower with the water hitting the neck may help to calm the discomfort.

If the pain continues more that a few days, it is best to see a doctor.  To schedule an appointment for physical therapy at one of the 12 JOI Rehab Centers, please call 904-858-7045.

Related Articles:  Robotic Surgery and Cervical Myelopathy

To see a JOI Orthopedic Cervical Spine Doctor, call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below.



By: Drew Heideman, PT, ATC

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