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Breaking Free: Non-Surgical Treatments for Cervical Radiculopathy

Neck Pain by Dr Debjyoti Dutta

In this Article - Discover the freedom from pain with non-surgical treatments for cervical radiculopathy. Break free from the constraints and find relief today.


introduction -

Cervical radiculopathy, commonly known as a pinched nerve in the neck, is a prevalent condition characterized by the irritation of nerves emerging from the spine.

The cervical region comprises seven vertebrae stacked vertically. Within each vertebra lies a hollow space that houses the spinal cord, a thick bundle of nerves. Between every two vertebrae, a pair of spinal nerves exits, supplying specific regions of the body. When these nerves undergo irritation, it results in pain not only localized to the neck but also extending to the areas served by the affected nerves. Alongside pain, individuals may also encounter symptoms like tingling, numbness, and weakness in the arm and hand.


Causes of Cervical Radiculopathy


Cervical radiculopathy can affect individuals of various ages, but certain factors may increase the likelihood of developing this condition. People who are more prone to cervical radiculopathy include:

  • Middle-aged and older adults: The risk tends to increase with age, particularly in individuals over 50 years old.

  • Disc-related issues, such as disc bulging or a slipped disc.

  • Age-related degeneration of the spine results in the narrowing of spaces through which nerves exit the spine.

  • Instability in the neck and the loss of proper alignment.

  • Less common factors encompass fractures, infections, and tumors.


Symptoms of Cervical Radiculopathy


Cervical radiculopathy can present with various symptoms, including:


1. Neck and Arm Pain: Pain stemming from the pinched nerve may be experienced in one or both arms, often accompanied by cervical pain. The nature of the pain can range from burning and sharp to squeezing, aching, or electric shock-like sensations.


2. Exacerbation of pain with Neck Movements: Certain neck movements, such as looking upward or turning the head to one side, may intensify the pain associated with the pinched nerve.


3. Tingling Sensation: Individuals may experience a tingling or pins-and-needles sensation in the affected arm or hand.


4. Numbness: A pinched nerve can lead to numbness or a loss of feeling in the arm or hand.


5. Weakness: Some individuals may notice weakness in the shoulder, arm, or hand, indicating potential nerve involvement.


6. Changes in Reflexes: Reflexes may be affected, with changes observed in specific reflexes associated with the affected nerve roots.


7. Difficulty with Fine Motor Skills: Individuals might experience difficulty with fine motor skills, such as buttoning a shirt or gripping small objects.


Recognizing these symptoms is crucial for early detection and appropriate management of a pinched nerve in the neck. If these signs persist or worsen, seeking medical attention is advisable for a comprehensive evaluation and tailored treatment plan.


Investigations for cervical radiculopathy


The diagnosis of cervical radiculopathy typically involves advanced imaging techniques, with MRI scans being particularly valuable for confirmation and assessment of severity. These scans offer detailed images of the spine, including nerves and discs, providing crucial insights.

Additional investigations may be necessary in certain cases, such as Nerve Conduction Velocity (NCV) tests, Electromyography (EMG), x-rays, and CT scans. These complementary tests can offer further information and contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the condition.


The treatment of cervical radiculopathy


The treatment of cervical radiculopathy employs a comprehensive approach, aiming to alleviate pain and restore functionality. While many individuals experience significant improvement within 3-6 months, timely diagnosis and intervention are essential to minimize pain and prevent the transformation into chronic conditions.

Treatment strategies encompass a combination of lifestyle adjustments, medications, physical therapy, and injections, with surgery reserved for a minority of cases.


Lifestyle Changes:

Incorporating lifestyle modifications plays a pivotal role, including improvements in posture, ergonomic adjustments, activity modifications, and lifestyle choices such as quitting smoking. Addressing factors like incorrect posture during activities involving laptops or mobile devices is crucial in reducing strain on the cervical spine.


Medications:

Various medications may be employed, tailored to the cause and severity of symptoms. This may include anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, and painkillers targeting nerve-related pain (neuropathic agents). In some cases, stronger pain medications may be recommended by a pain specialist.


Cervical Epidural Steroid Injection:

Administered under real-time X-ray guidance, epidural injections deliver anti-inflammatory medication to the epidural space near the affected nerve. This procedure aims to reduce inflammation and nerve sensitivity, providing relief. The duration of relief can vary from short-term to long-term, with some experiencing permanent relief if the underlying issue is resolved. These injections facilitate pain reduction, enabling individuals to resume normal activities and participate in physical therapy programs.


It's crucial to note that the specific treatment plan may vary based on individual circumstances, and a healthcare professional should guide and tailor the approach to each patient's needs.


About the author


Dr Debjyoti Dutta

Dr. Debjyoti Dutta is a prominent pain specialist and accomplished author associated with Samobathi Pain Clinic and Fortis Hospital in Kolkata. Currently holding the position of registrar at the Indian Academy of Pain Medicine, Dr. Dutta specializes in musculoskeletal ultrasound and interventional pain management. Widely recognized for his expertise, he has made significant contributions to the field, with impactful publications like "Musculoskeletal Ultrasound in Pain Medicine" and "Clinical Methods in Pain Medicine," offering profound insights into the realm of pain management. Beyond his clinical commitments, Dr. Dutta serves as a faculty member for the Asian Pain Academy Courses. In this role, he plays a pivotal part in delivering high-quality pain management fellowship training in Kolkata, India, contributing to the education and development of professionals in the field.




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