Cervical radiculopathy, commonly known as a pinched nerve, is an injury or change in the function of a nerve caused by compression of one of the nerve roots around the cervical vertebrae. Your cervical spine (or neck) comprises seven small cervical vertebrae that start at the base of your skull and run down to the top of the shoulders. Cervical radiculopathy manifests itself in this region.

The nerves that run through your cervical spine communicate with your muscles and your brain. The roots of these nerves spread out through openings (foramen) in your vertebrae. Depending on where they are located, an injury to the nerve roots can cause pain and numbness along the nerve’s course into the arm and hand.


The following are some of the most common causes of cervical radiculopathy:

Degenerative changes

Normal degenerative changes in the discs in middle-aged people can put a lot of pressure on the tissues surrounding the nerve roots. Cervical foraminal stenosis, for example, occurs when these abnormalities constrict the openings in your vertebrae, causing nerve roots to be pinched.


Cervical radiculopathy in younger people is caused by a ruptured disc, possibly due to a bulging or herniated disc. Disks sometimes herniate as a result of unnatural movements, such as when you bend, lift, twist, or pull. When a disk herniates, the material within it compresses or inflames the nerve root, resulting in sharp pain.

Other causes

  • Spinal infections
  • Spinal cancers
  • Benign spine tumors
  • Sarcoidosis


The most common symptom of cervical radiculopathy is sharp pain in the arms, neck, chest, upper back, and/or shoulders. Certain activities, even as simple as sneezing or coughing, can worsen the pain.

A person suffering from radiculopathy may also experience other unpleasant symptoms such as:

  • Sensory abnormalities, such as tingling or numbness in the fingers or hands
  • Decreased strength in the muscles, impaired coordination, or abnormal reflex response in arms or legs

The location of the pinched nerve root in the spine will determine your specific symptoms. However, you may also experience occasional flare-ups of symptoms or no symptoms at all.


Your doctor will first ask you to detail all of your symptoms and go over your medical history to arrive at a diagnosis of cervical radiculopathy.

They will also do a physical checkup of your neck, shoulders, arms, and hands to look for muscle weakness and fatigue as well as abnormalities with sensation or reflexes. Your doctor may advise you to move your arms or neck to see whether certain movements trigger or relieve pain or other symptoms.

They may also perform the following tests:

  • X-rays to check for vertebral opening constriction or disc herniation
  • CT scans to obtain more detailed images of your cervical spine
  • MRI to look for nerve root or soft tissue injury
  • Nerve conduction studies, along with electromyography, to determine how your muscles function while they are at rest and when they are contracted


Cervical radiculopathy symptoms in some people improve with time and might not require treatment. However, if you do need to be treated, your doctor will initially recommend non-surgical options.

Medications such as corticosteroids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen, physical therapy, or a combination of the two are commonly used in the non-surgical treatment of cervical radiculopathy.

If the nerve is compressed to the point where muscle weakness occurs, surgery may be required to relieve the pressure on the nerve root. Posterior cervical foraminotomy/discectomy is one of the minimally invasive spine surgery options available.


While radiculopathy cannot always be prevented, staying reasonably active and weight control may lower your risk. It is also important to use best practices for good posture when sitting, playing sports, exercising, or lifting heavy objects to reduce the risk of injury.

If you have any of the symptoms of cervical radiculopathy, reach out to Renovaire Pain Care today. We provide residents of Katy, Texas, with effective treatment interventions for cervical radiculopathy. Call us at 281-768-4122 or write to us at to schedule a consultation with our neuropathy experts and be on your way to living life again!