The cervical portion of the spine is made up of several bones known as vertebrae. These vertebrae are located at the base of the skull and extend through the neck region of the spine. Several pairs of nerves travel through these vertebrae, and if any of them become compressed, or pinched, cervical neuropathy may occur. The primary symptom of cervical neuropathy is neck pain, which often radiates downward into the arm. Treatment options include medication, supportive devices, and surgical intervention.
The pain associated with cervical neuropathy can range from relatively mild to extraordinarily painful. If numbness and tingling are present along with the pain, it generally means that the nerve compression is a bit more severe. These symptoms can affect one side at a time or both sides simultaneously. It is important to report symptoms to a medical professional right away so that proper testing can be ordered.
A variety of medical conditions or situations can cause cervical neuropathy. Muscle spasms commonly create pressure on the nerves and can contribute to this condition. In this case, prescription muscle relaxants may be the only treatment required to resolve the symptoms. Over-the-counter or prescription pain medications may also be prescribed until the symptoms have been resolved.
Perhaps the most common cause of cervical neuropathy is a type of degenerative arthritis in which bony spurs develop in the spine, leading to pain and inflammation. The sponge-like discs situated between the vertebrae sometimes become damaged, leading to compressed nerves and cervical neuropathy. A cervical collar, also referred to as a neck brace, is often prescribed in order to stabilize the neck and head, thus relieving some of the pressure placed on the affected nerves. Steroid injections are often given as well in order to reduce some of the inflammation surrounding the nerve.
If the above treatment options are not successful or if the damage is particularly severe, surgical intervention may become necessary. This is especially true if the associated weakness affects the arm to the point where normal activities become difficult or even impossible. If a damaged disc actually ruptures, surgery is generally necessary in order to repair the damage. It is also sometimes necessary for the surgeon to stabilize the affected portion of the spine in such a way as to keep the vertebrae from moving. A negative side effect of this type of surgery is a potentially permanent reduction in neck movement.