Imagine waking up every day with a sharp pain shooting down your arm, making even the simplest tasks unbearable. This is what many individuals suffering from cervical radiculopathy go through everyday. It is a condition caused by compression of nerve roots in the neck. Often in such cases, conservative treatments like therapies, massage, and pain-killers don’t do any good and surgery is the only treatment that promises long-term relief. If you find yourself in this situation, this article will provide a comprehensive view of Cervical Radiculopathy, its symptoms, causes, and when Cervical Radiculopathy surgery is performed. It will help you understand your situation better and make an informed decision.
See a Spine Surgeon in Los Angeles: If you have been diagnosed with cervical radiculopathy and looking for treatment or you want to see a doctor for diagnosis, you can schedule an appointment with Moksha Ranasinghe, MD at Southern California Brain & Spine Surgery.
Cervical refers to the upper portion of the spinal column that makes up your neck and Radiculopathy means injury or damage to nerve roots in the area where they leave the spine. Cervical radiculopathy occurs when nerves are pinched or compressed within the neck. It can cause patients to experience severe pain, numbness and weakness in the arms and hands.
The symptoms of cervical radiculopathy can vary in severity and frequency, but mostly include:
- Persistent neck pain
- Radiating arm pain that extends down the arm
- Tingling or numbness in the arm or hand
- Weakness in the arm or hand causing difficulty in performing routine tasks.
Cervical radiculopathy is caused due to a pinched nerve in the neck and the nerve can be entrapped due to several factors including:
- Spinal stenosis
- Herniated disc
- Degenerative changes in the cervical spine
- Spinal cord injury
Cervical Radiculopathy Surgery
Doctors go for surgery when there is no possibility of improvement with conservative methods such as physical therapy, pain management, and activity modification. Patients with severe and progressive symptoms are also immediately put on surgical treatments.
General Procedure for Cervical Radiculopathy Surgery
The general procedure for cervical radiculopathy surgery typically involves making a small incision in the front or back of the neck, depending on the type of surgery being performed. During the procedure, the surgeon will access the cervical spine to remove or decompress the affected nerve root, or to replace a damaged disc. Nowadays, minimally invasive methods using endoscopic or microscopic instruments are also being used to treat Cervical Radiculopathy. Minimally invasive spine surgery is less painful and also has a shorter recovery period.
There are several surgical options for treating cervical radiculopathy, however, the purpose of all procedures is common i.e., to remove the compression from the pinched nerve.
Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF)
It is a two-fold procedure in which a cervical disc is first removed that was compressing the nerve results in a gap in the vertebrae. In the second phase, the adjacent vertebrae are fused together to provide stability to the spine. As the name “Anterior” suggests, this procedure is performed by making an incision in the front of the neck.
In this procedure, a portion of the bone and ligament in the back of the neck is removed (as opposed to discectomy in which a part of the vertebra is cut) to increase the size of the spinal canal and relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. This procedure is typically performed as an outpatient procedure using minimally invasive techniques.
In this surgery, a portion of the bone and ligament is removed from the side of the cervical vertebrae to relieve pressure on the nerve roots. This procedure is typically performed as an outpatient procedure using minimally invasive techniques.
Cervical disc replacement
It is a procedure in which a damaged cervical disc is removed and replaced with an artificial disc to restore normal spinal motion and relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. This procedure is typically performed as an outpatient procedure using minimally invasive techniques.
Recovery after Cervical Radiculopathy Surgery
After the procedure, the patient is taken to a recovery room where doctors monitor him for any signs of complications. The recovery period will depend on the type of procedure performed, but most individuals can return to their normal activities and resume work and exercise within several weeks to a few months after the surgery.
Conservative Treatments for Cervical Radiculopathy
Conservative treatments are the non-invasive/non-surgical methods recommended by the doctor to treat neck pain. These treatments are the first choice when a patient comes with a complaint of pain in the cervical spine. Only individuals whose problems can be improved without surgery are subjected to these procedures.
Physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles in the neck and upper back to alleviate pain and improve the range of motion. A physical therapist can also teach you exercises to help relieve pressure on the cervical nerves.
Pain management techniques such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), heat or cold therapy, and epidural injections can help reduce pain and improve function.
Limiting activities that put a strain on the neck, such as repetitive neck movements or heavy lifting, can help reduce symptoms of cervical radiculopathy.
Chiropractic care can help improve spinal alignment and relieve pressure on the cervical nerves. Manipulation, traction, and massage can also help alleviate pain and improve the range of motion.
Q. How successful is Cervical Radiculopathy surgery?
According to John et al, 80-90% of cervical radiculopathy surgeries successfully provide patients with pain relief.
Q: Are there any risks or complications associated with cervical radiculopathy surgery?
As with any other surgical procedure, Cervical Radiculopathy also has some risks associated with it. For example, surgical wound infection, nerve injury, excessive bleeding, etc.
Q. How long does it take to completely recover after the surgery?
The recovery period varies from case to case depending upon the factors like the patient’s age, the physical condition of the patient, and the type of surgery performed. Having said that, you can expect a full recovery in a time period of 4 to 12 months.