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  5. OHC Truths #03: Is Your Arm Pain Actually A Neck Problem (Cervical Radiculopathy)

OHC Truths #03: Is Your Arm Pain Actually A Neck Problem (Cervical Radiculopathy)

OHC Truths #03 Is Your Arm Pain Actually A Neck Problem (Cervical Radiculopathy) | Orchard Health Clinic

Long hours at the office have been causing headaches and soreness around my neck region. Lately, I have also been experiencing pain and occasional numbness/tingling in my fingers. I was told that I may have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. However, the pain worsened and my friends suggested that I see someone else for a second opinion as it could possibly be a neck issue instead.

It is often said that tingling and numbness sensations in the hand are related to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This may not be 100% true.

The nerves that travel down to your hand actually start from the base of your skull, at the neck area. If this nerve is being irritated or compressed in the neck region, this condition is called Cervical Radiculopathy.

So what causes Cervical Radiculopathy?

Cervical Radiculopathy often arises from poor long-term posture or degenerative changes that occur in the spine as we age or from an injury that causes a herniated or bulging intervertebral disk.

The nerves that travel down into your arms exit the spinal cord through spaces between the bones in your neck. The bones have gel cushions between them called discs. As the discs in the spine age, they lose height and begin to bulge. They also lose water content, start to dry out, and become stiffer. This problem causes a reduction of the disc spaces and loss of disc space height. A nerve can be compressed if the disc material is pressing on the nerve or if the bones develop spurs from arthritis, making the opening for the nerve much smaller. Sometimes the joints in the spine can become inflamed and cause nerve irritation.

As the discs lose height, the vertebrae move closer together. The body responds to the collapsed disc by forming more bone — called bone spurs. This is actually a body response to help you and strengthen the disc. These bone spurs contribute to the stiffening of the spine. They may also narrow the foramen — the small openings on each side of the spinal column where the nerve roots exit. Consequently, the herniation pinches the nerve root causing pain. If the nerve is impinged for a sustained period of time and left untreated, the symptoms may get more severe resulting in tingling and numbness that radiates down into your hands and fingers.

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