The Vault

Neck Pain: Radiculopathy

Radiculapathy is a term describing a pinched nerve. The nerves exit the spinal cord through an opening called the neural foramen. Either a bulging or herniated disc or an enlarged facet joint can pinch the nerve. Bone spurs can also form, all of which can put pressure on the nerve. Patients will complain of neck pain and spasm, as well as pain that radiates down the arm into the hand. This pain is described as electrical or a “shock” down the arm, and can feel like it’s burning and numb. Severe case will cause weakness in the arm as well.

Radiculapathy is diagnosed by history, physical exam, and imaging. EMG and nerve conduction studies may also be performed to provide objective information of potential nerve damage. Minimally invasive treatments such as epidural steroid injections can provide relief. Sometimes the condition is too severe and requires surgical correction. Please see our explanation of epidural steroid injections and anterior cervical decompression and fusion for an in depth explanation of treatment.