Commonly referred to as a “pinched nerve,” cervical radiculopathy refers to damage or irritation of the nerve roots that exit the cervical spine. At each vertebral level in the neck, a nerve exits the spinal cord and travels to the skin and muscles of the arms.
Nerves are responsible for three functions: pain, sensation, and strength. Pain is usually the first sign of nerve irritation and can be felt in many different ways. Pain can be deep, dull, and achy or sharp and shooting along the affected nerve. Sensations tend to occur first as “pins and needles” or tingling and may progress to numbness. You may have changes in muscle groups and strength. Because the nerves are responsible for pain, sensation, and strength, compression of a nerve could result in pain, sensation changes, or weakness in different areas of your arms.
A variety of things can cause a pinched nerve. A couple of common reasons people get pinched nerves are disc herniation or bone spurs. Disc herniation occurs when the central material inside a vertebral disc squeezes through a tear in the annulus (or outer ring). Bone spurs reduce the amount of space available for the nerve root to live, causing irritation to the nerve.
In many cases, treatment for a pinched nerve can be achieved at home. These conservative methods can help alleviate pain and restore function to the affected area.
Some people need more advanced treatments. Your Ogden Clinic spine doctor might suggest injections of steroid medicine in the area where a disk is herniated. Additionally, some people might benefit from surgery. During a surgical procedure called a discectomy, wherein the surgeon removes all or part of the disc that is pressing on a nerve root. Along with this procedure, the surgeon may need to remove parts of some vertebrae or fuse vertebrae together.
If you suspect a pinched nerve or experience changes in the strength or sensation of your upper body, contact our office for a consultation with one of our northern Utah spine specialists.