May 29, 2019

Cervical Radiculopathy and Physical Therapy

Author

Samuel Arnold

Read Time

5 minutes


Cervical Radiculopathy: Do I have it and how do I know?

            Cervical radiculopathy is a common diagnosis for pain that emanates from the neck and runs down the arm, but it is common for similar symptoms to be present in a pinched nerve outside of the cervical spine. So how do you know for sure if you have it or not?  At Imagine Physical Therapy we at the symptoms and tests that can determine whether you have a true cervical radiculopathy or not.

Signs and Symptoms

            Symptoms of cervical radiculopathy typically begin in the shoulder and can progress down the entire arm.  The most common symptom is pain   Sensations experienced by the patients is often describes as pins and needles, tingling, or numbness. Another often seen symptom is weakness in the affected limb. It typically doesn’t weaken the entire extremity, but only a few muscles. In rare cases it can affect both extremities, and if goes the entire way down the arm can affect grip strength. Typically, the symptoms are brought on by a particular set of movements, such as bending the neck forward for too long.  Other cases the symptoms may be constant and unrelenting.

            Unfortunately, these symptoms are common with many upper extremity nerve conditions, such as carpel tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, and others.  At Imagine, we run through a full examination to determine whether this is a true cervical radiculopathy or another condition that mimics the symptoms.

Diagnostic Assessment

            The examination will begin by examining the range of motion and strength in the extremity where the symptoms are occurring, and the unaffected side so that we have a baseline assessment of how the condition is affecting you. We will use palpation techniques to find the target areas where the nerve impingement could be occurring at.  Finally, we will use the cervical radiculopathy testing protocol that has a 97 percent success rate of ruling out this condition as the cause of the problem.

            The cervical radiculopathy test protocol consists of 4 parts; 1. Spurling’s Test,  2. Upper Limb Tension Test,  3. Cervical Rotation Test,  4. Distraction Test.  Each one of these tests is a key in determining whether you have a cervical radiculopathy or not.  The Spurling’s test checks if compression in your spine can cause a change in your symptoms or not. For the Upper Limb Tension Test, we assess whether there is nerve tightness that can be seen down the extremity in question that can’t be on the uninvolved side, which would give us an indication of which nerve is being impinged.  The cervical rotation test checks to see whether you can turn your head to the side that is giving you issues far enough without a change in your symptoms.  When looking to our final test, the Distraction Test, we are looking to see if taking pressure off your neck will lead to a change in symptoms.  A change in pressure should elicit a change in symptoms if the issue is in the neck.

            After taking in all of this information, we can determine whether or not you have a cervical radiculopathy, and create an appropriate plan of care.


Let Imagine Physical Therapy help with your Cervical Radiculopathy today!

 

Bibliography

CPR for Cervical Radiculopathy. (n.d.). Retrieved May 27, 2019, from https://www.physio-pedia.com/CPR_for_Cervical_Radiculopathy

 

Meyler, Z. (n.d.). Cervical Radiculopathy Signs and Symptoms. Retrieved May 27, 2019, from https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/neck-pain/cervical-radiculopathy-signs-and-symptoms