Radiculopathy/Arm Pain

What Is Radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy refers to symptoms resulting from compression or irritation of the spinal nerve root at its point of connection to the spinal column. This injury can also be referred to as a pinched nerve. Radiculopathy can strike any part of the spine, but it is most common in the lower back (lumbar) and the neck (cervical). In radiculopathy, the nerve root alongside the spine is the site of the injury, but the symptoms may manifest in a completely separate location, such as the forearm. The term "radiculopathy" focuses on the nerve root since "radix" means "root." Polyradiculopathy refers to the condition where more than one spinal nerve root is affected.

What Are the Symptoms of Radiculopathy?

Symptoms of cervical radiculopathy include sharp pain that runs down the arm, caused by nerve root irritation. Weakness, numbing and tingling in the arms along the course of the nerve are also common. Finally, symptoms may become worse because of certain movements and can include aching or sharp, radiating pain when the neck is extended backward. Other symptoms can include:

  • Neck or shoulder pain
  • Headache
  • Impaired reflexes

What Are the Causes of Radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy is caused by a nerve becoming inflamed or compressed. Herniated disc, bone spurs, thickening of ligaments or osteoarthritis can all lead to radiculopathy.

What Are the Treatments for Radiculopathy?

Non-surgical Treatment

A number of radiculopathy patients are typically able to experience some degree of pain relief from non-surgical treatment, often seeing improvement quickly within days or weeks. Other patients do not find relief so rapidly and develop ongoing symptoms. Common treatments can include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Steroid injections
  • Physical therapy
  • Avoidance of activities that aggravate the condition
  • Soft collars for temporary immobility

Surgical Treatment

If symptoms do not improve and remain severe after conservative non-operative measures, Dr. Singh or Dr. Phillips may recommend surgery as an option for treating radiculopathy. The goal of the surgery is to remove compression (pinching) of the affected nerve. There are typically three surgical procedures used for treating cervical radiculopathy.

  • Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) is the most common treatment. This minimally invasive procedure removes the portion of the disc pressing against the nerve root.
  • Posterior cervical lamino-foraminotomy is utilized when the patient has only one herniated disc protruding from the vertebra's side
  • Artificial disc replacement