Cervical Radiculopathy – A real pain in the neck!

Earlier in the year I wrote a blog article on acute and chronic neck pain, as it was something that had a significant impact on me after a sporting injury. More recently I have seen an increasing number of rehabilitation clients presenting with a specific type of this wide-ranging injury classification, cervical radiculopathy so I wanted to share some details about this condition.

Cervical radiculopathy is the clinical description of when a nerve root in the cervical spine becomes inflamed or damaged, resulting in a change in neurological function. The most common cause of this condition is either bone spurs or a herniated disc, such as from spinal degeneration overtime or an injury. The main symptom of this condition is pain that spreads into the arm, neck, chest, upper back and shoulders. Muscle weakness and numbness or tingling in the fingers or hands may also be present.

Both rehabilitation clients I have been seeing sustained their cervical injuries at work after lifting over 20kgs in an awkward posture. They both described similar symptoms at the time of the injury, as both have suffered impingement of the c6 nerve root. The neurological signs of cervical radiculopathy vary greatly depending on the site of the damage or inflammation as seen in the following image.

There is a range of strategies used for managing cervical radiculopathy, with physical therapy and surgical interventions being the most common. There is a substantial amount of evidence to support the use of exercise interventions, and the benefit of exercise and manual techniques in general for patients with neck pain with or without radicular symptoms.

Although there is no set treatment progression for treating cervical radiculopathy the wide-ranging approach involves using simple stretches and active range of motion (AROM), focusing on decreasing levels of pain and cervical and thoracic activation exercises with the aim of increasing function and strength of the supporting muscles.

Both of my rehabilitation clients are at different stages of their recovery timelines however their goals are still very much the same, stretching and strengthening. In the later stages of these return to work programmes several job-specific upper body exercises will be incorporated to fully prepare them for the repetitive nature of their respective roles.

If you would like more information on managing your neck pain or return to work programme please contact Absolute Balance by mail info@absolutebalance.com.au or view our website www.absolutebalance.com.au

Michael Buswell (B.Sc. –  Exercise Physiology)
Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) (ESSAM)

 

 

  • Cheng CH, Tsai LC, Chung HC, Hsu WL, Wang SF, Wang JL, Lai DM, Chien A. Exercise training for non-operative and post-operative patient with cervical radiculopathy: a literature review. 2015 Sep. J Phys Ther Sci. 27(9): 3011-8.
  • Peolsson A et al. Physical Function Outcome in Cervical Radiculopathy Patients After Physiotherapy Alone Compared With Anterior Surgery Followed by Physiotherapy: A Prospective Randomized Study With a 2-Year Follow-up. 15 February 2013. Spine 38(4): 300-307
  • Tanaka N. et al, The anatomic relation among the nerve roots, intervertebral foramina, and intervertebral discs ofthe cervical spine. Spine. 2000 February; 25(3): 286-291