Cervical Radiculitis

Tips on Cervical Radiculitis

Numbness and pain that radiates in various regions of the upper body could be the cause of the compression of nerve roots along the upper part of the spine; a condition that is called cervical radiculitis.  Treatment of this painful condition will depend on where exactly along the spine the compression is occurring.

The spine begins at the base of the skull.  An intricate network of ligaments, muscles and tendons work together to perform various tasks; including supporting the skull, allowing a variety of head movements and protecting the spinal cord to name a few.  The upper portion of the spine is referred to as the cervical spine, consisting of seven vertebrae.  Midway down the spine is where the thoracic spine is located, and the lower part of the spine is called the lumbar spine.  Nerves run alongside the spine, connected to the spine and branching off as impulses to and from the brain as well as to all outlying areas in the body by a highway called the peripheral nervous system.   

Needless to say, the spine is the very “backbone” of our ability to move; holding us upright and allowing fluid movement of the body.  It is extremely strong, yet can be easily damaged through poor posture, stress from repeated movement, sports activities, injury, osteoarthritis and overweight conditions.  Even the inevitable aging of an individual can have detrimental effects on the spine. When one of these situations places undue stress on the nerve roots by way of the surrounding tissues or bone, the nerves can become pressured.  If the compression is allowed to continue, inflammation of the nerve and pain can be the result.  When this occurs on a short term basis, generally no permanent damage is incurred to the nerve.  The inflammation and discomfort will dissipate once the pressure has been relieved.  In those cases, however, when the pressure remains constant on the nerve, permanent nerve damage can be the result. 

Chronic nerve pressure, regardless of the cause, will eventually cause the deterioration of the vertebrae.  As this occurs, the space between the vertebrae diminishes.  Since major nerves exist within these spaces, soon feelings of numbness and pain will begin.  This condition is called cervical radiculitis.  Where the pain and numbness is felt will depend on which of the seven vertebrae in the cervical spine is affected.  

An accurate diagnosis of this debilitating condition will be determined by an MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging.  This test uses radio waves and a magnetic field to present specific images of the body’s organs, skeletal form and tissues.  A complex process, the MRI images provide the medical profession with 3-D images that can be examined from a variety of different angles to get a precise picture of what is occurring.  It is often performed to determine spinal and brain disorders.  Non-invasive and relatively safe for most people, the MRI is virtually painless even though numerous radio waves are being directed at the body.  The patient is advised to lie very still as they are placed within a tube like machine, where they will remain for approximately one hour as the test is being performed.  The only exception to movement is when specific instructions are given to the patient to move certain parts of the body as part of the test process. 

Once the precise location of the nerve compression causing the cervical radiculitis is identified, treatment can then begin.  Surgery may be recommended for serious deterioration, while physical therapy will help the healing of milder cases. 

The recovery rate for those suffering from this condition is generally positive.  Contacting your doctor at the earliest signs of this condition will help to alleviate the discomfort and allow treatment to begin to eradicate the underlying problems.

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