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Pinched Nerve (Cervical Radiculopathy) Treatment Orange County

Our Neck Doctors Help Relieve Your Neck Pain

Cervical radiculopathy is more commonly known as a pinched nerve. It occurs when there is a compressed, irritated nerve in the neck that branches away from the spinal cord, where it belongs. This can cause intense pain that radiates to the shoulder, as well as muscle weakness and numbness in the upper extremities. Most people who experience pinched nerves are older adults who sustain “wear and tear” changes as they age, including arthritis. Younger adults may also sustain a pinched nerve, too, though, most often caused by a sudden, acute injury that causes a herniated disk.

A pinched nerve may be found in numerous sites of the body, including the hands (most commonly causing carpal tunnel syndrome), or a herniated disk in the lower spine can put pressure on the nerves, causing intense pain that radiates down the back of the leg. Most people recover from a pinched nerve with rest and other nonsurgical treatments within a few days or weeks, but sometimes surgery is necessary if nonsurgical treatments prove unsuccessful.

Do I Have a Pinched Nerve?

You may wonder what caused your potential pinched nerve, and the answer is - causes vary. In some cases, a herniated spinal disk compresses the root nerve, and in other instances, the muscles or tendons aggravate a pinched nerve. A pinched nerve may be caused by conditions that compress nerves, including injury, arthritis, repetitive work injuries, overexertion during physical activity, and obesity. Other risk factors include diabetes, pregnancy, and prolonged bed rest.

A pinched nerve may cause you to feel:

  • Numbness in the area where the affected nerve is pinched
  • Sharp, burning pain that radiates outwards
  • Sensations of pins and needles (medically called paresthesia)
  • Muscle weakness in the affected body area
  • Frequently noticing your foot or hand has “fallen asleep”
  • Symptoms may be worse while you’re resting or sleeping

The Anatomy of the Spine

To better understand cervical radiculopathy, it helps to learn more about your spinal anatomy. The spinal column is made up of 33 separate bones called vertebrae, which form a strong, flexible rod protecting the spinal cord, supporting the head, and providing attachment for the rib bones. The spine is comprised of 4 major components: the vertebrae, joints, discs, and nerves.

Pinched Nerve Diagnosis

Your spine surgeon will conduct a physical examination of your neck, shoulder, arms and hands – looking for muscle weakness, loss of sensation, or any change in your reflexes. Your doctor may test specific neck movements or turning the head to check for these movements triggering increased pain. A nerve conduction study will likely be ordered to measure electrical nerve impulses in the functioning muscles and nerves. This study can show your orthopedic spine surgeon whether you have a damaged nerve. Electromyography (EMG) tests can evaluate the electrical activity of the muscles as they contract versus while at rest. The results of these tests indicate whether there is nerve damage leading to a muscle. Your doctor will also order imaging tests, including an MRI, to produce detailed views inside the body on multiple planes, which can indicate whether you have nerve root compression and what is causing it.

Pinched Nerve Treatment

Once your doctor determines you have a pinched nerve, they will recommend you stop any activities that cause or irritate the nerve compression. Depending on the location of your nerve compression, you may require a splint or brace to immobilize the area and allow it to rest and heal. Physical therapy is another conservative treatment that can teach patients how to strengthen, stretch, and heal the muscles in the area where the nerve is compressed, to relieve the pressure it is causing. Your spine surgeon may also prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or oral corticosteroids to alleviate swelling and inflammation around the nerve.

Your pain management specialist may recommend a steroid injection to target the affected nerve and reduce local inflammation. Options include: epidural injections and a selective facet joint injection. Although steroid injections do not relieve pressure on the nerve caused by possible disc fragments from a bulging or herniated disc, they may lessen the swelling and relieve pain long enough to allow the nerve to recover.

Prescribing narcotics to relieve nerve pain is reserved for patients with severe nerve pain that has not been relieved by other conservative options. Narcotics are usually prescribed for only a limited time.

Surgery for pinched nerves may be necessary if your condition doesn’t improve within a few months of nonsurgical treatments, so your orthopedic spine surgeon can take pressure off the affected nerve. The type of surgery will depend on the location of the pinched nerve and the underlying conditions causing the pinched nerve. Surgery may entail removing bone spurs, a portion of a herniated spinal disk, or other techniques to relieve pressure from the compressed nerve.

Ready to book an appointment for pinched nerve treatment in Orange County? Simply dial (949) 705-6493 to book an appointment with our orthopedic hospital.

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