Neck Injuries with Radiating Pain

Neck Injuries With Radiating Pain

by Bret Schnitzer

Neck injuries are commonplace for auto accident victims. The rapid acceleration and deceleration of the neck due to the forces of a car accident can cause many types of neck injuries. Striking your head or body inside the vehicle during impact can also cause many types of neck injuries. This article will address one such neck injury common yet serious and related to a motor vehicle accident. This injury is known as a Cervical Radiculopathy. Cervical or neck and Radiculopathy or radiation down the extremity.

What Is Cervical Radiculopathy?

Cervical radiculopathy is the damage to the nerve function that results if one of the nerve roots near the cervical vertebrae is compressed. Damage to nerve roots in the cervical area can cause pain and the loss of sensation in various upper extremities, depending on where the damaged roots are located.

Causes of Cervical Radiculopathy

Damage can occur as a result of pressure from material from a ruptured disc, bulging disc, degenerative changes in bones, arthritis or other injuries that put pressure on the nerve roots. The spine is comprised of vertebrae which are bony structures which have a disc between each of them. The disc is similar to a donut or shock absorber. The outer portion of the disc is called the nucleus pulpous and is hard and the interior of the disc is called the annulus fibrosis and is jelly like. When the disc is injured due to a traumatic auto accident the jelly material can push out and cause the disc to bulge or herniate. When this occurs the disc material can press on the nerves that run down the spine causing a pressure resulting in a radiating pain down the extremity and causing pain and weakness.

Symptoms of Cervical Radiculopathy

The main symptom of cervical radiculopathy is pain that spreads into the arm, neck, chest and/or shoulders. A person with radiculopathy may experience muscle weakness and/or numbness or tingling in fingers or hands. Other symptoms may include lack of coordination, especially in the hands. The tingling or numbness or weakness that accompanies a radiculopathy is a common but a serious condition.

Treatments of Cervical Radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy may be treated with a combination of pain medications such as corticosteroids (powerful anti-inflammatory steroidal drugs) or non-steroidal pain medication (Motrin or Aleve) and physical therapy. Steroids may be prescribed either orally or injected epidurally (into the space above the dura, which is the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord).

Physical therapy might include gentle cervical traction and mobilization, exercises, and other modalities to reduce pain. If significant compression on the nerve exists to the extent that motor weakness results, surgery may be necessary to relieve the pressure. Surgery can be a fusion of the vetabrae by removing the damaged disc or a lamenectomy or other surgical procedure.