Cervical radiculopathy is a common cause of neck and arm pain, occurring when there is irritation of one of the spine nerves at the neck. Cervical radiculopathy does not usually result from trauma, rather it is most commonly caused by cervical disc herniation or a combination of disc and spine arthritic changes that have become aggravated over time. Statistically, 83 out of every 100,000 people currently suffer from significant cervical radiculopathy. Those with neck and arm pain caused by cervical radiculopathy are likely in their 50s or 60s, yet cervical radiculopathy can occur at a much younger age. When neck and arm pain is caused by a cervical radiculopathy, there may be decreased range of motion at the neck. Cervical radiculopathy can be diagnosed when chiropractic examination finds decreased reflexes, muscle weakness, and/or decreased sensation at the arm.
Shoulder Blade Pain from Cervical Radiculopathy
Neck and arm pain caused by cervical radiculopathy also involves scapular pain (shoulder blade pain) in about 50% of cases. Often times, people described this as burning or aching at the shoulder blade, which cannot be relieved by stretching or massaging the area. This is an example of a referred pain from the neck. The problem is at the neck, yet your body perceives that the pain is coming from the shoulder blade.
Numbness and Tingling to the Hand from Cervical Radiculopathy
The arm symptoms from cervical radiculopathy may be numbness, tingling, aching, burning, or shooting pain commonly going to the forearm or hand. Because the nerve is irritated at the neck, and the same nerve carries sensory information from the forearm or hand, the body perceives the pain and numbness as coming from the forearm or hand. The C7 or C8 nerve roots are the most commonly involved with cervical radiculopathy, representing about 80% of cervical rodeo radiculopathy cases. Since the C7 and C8 nerve roots carry information beyond the elbow, it is safe to say that most radiculopathy pain and numbness extend to the forearm and hand.
Hand and Arm Weakness from Cervical Radiculopathy
In addition to carrying sensory information, spine nerves also innervate muscles of the arm and hand. So when a nerve is irritated, the motor signal to the muscle is blunted, resulting in weakness. The greater the compression on the nerve root, the greater the weakness of the muscle. In fact, if the nerve is significantly damaged, there will be near paralysis at the muscles that receive the majority of their motor stimulus from the damaged nerve root. Since the larger muscles receive motor stimulation from more than one nerve root, weakness may be subtle and only apparent during a careful chiropractic examination.