Cervical Radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy (pinched nerve)

Cervical radiculopathy, commonly called a "pinched nerve" occurs when a nerve in the neck is compressed or irritated where it branches away from the spinal cord. This may cause pain that radiates into the shoulder, as well as muscle weakness and numbness that travels down the arm and into the hand.

What is a herniated disc?

A herniated disc is a common injury that occurs when the soft nucleus of an intervertebral disc pushes through the tough outer annulus. Often, disc herniations occur in the lower region of the back known as the lumbar spine. This rupture of a vertebral disc can be caused by the normal wear of aging or by traumatic injury. A herniated disc can push against a nerve root, sending pain down the sciatic nerve and resulting in a burning, tingling and/or numbing sensation from the lower back down to one or both feet. Fortunately, many surgical and nonsurgical treatments are effective at eliminating symptoms associated with a herniated disc. Dr. Bray and his clinical network offer a wide range of soft tissue, pain management and microsurgical options for the treatment of disc herniation.

Intervertebral discs are a major anatomical component of the spine. Functionally they are responsible for absorbing impact in the spine, preserving mobility, and maintaining the spacing between vertebrae (the bony structures in the spine). An intervertebral disc maintains its shape via the tough outer cartilaginous annulus. The inner region of the disc (nucleus) is far more fluid, giving the disc its shock absorbing capacity. It may help to envision an intervertebral disc as a thick rubber waterbed full of viscous fluid.

Repeated trauma and the natural process of aging may cause the annulus to break down. If sufficiently worn, the nucleus will begin to push through the annular cartilage. The annulus is innervated by sensory nerve endings and therefore annular tears are often painful. Additionally, breakdown of the annulus results in local inflammation.

If the nucleus completely pushes through the annulus, it is said to herniate out of the normal disc space. The adjacent spinal cord and extending nerve roots may be compressed by herniated disc material. Spinal cord or nerve root compression often results in pain radiating down the arm, or leg, depending upon the location of the disc herniation. Many patients are familiar with the condition known as sciatica – pain in the lower back, buttocks, and back of the leg. This is often the result of a lumbar disc herniation compressing a nerve root. Treatment plans vary depending on the health of the patient and the state of the disc.

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