Commonly known as a pinched nerve, cervical radiculopathy is a condition caused by damage or a change in how the nerve roots of the cervical vertebrae work. A person has up to seven small vertebrae in the cervical spine around the neck area. Cervical radiculopathy is caused by arthritis, degenerative bone changes, and other factors that cause pressure on the nerves running through the spine.

The condition is characterized by severe pain, discomfort, and a loss of sensation around the neck. If you consult a doctor with symptoms like neck pain, sensory issues, and loss of motor skills, they will recommend that you undergo tests like a CT scan, X-rays, or an MRI to determine the exact location and extent of the nerve damage.

Different treatment options are available for cervical radiculopathy, including medication, surgery, and physical therapy. Physical therapy for this condition aims to strengthen the neck muscles, relieve pain, and restore normal function. At Suarez Physical Therapy, we understand the impact of cervical radiculopathy symptoms on your life and well-being. We offer expert physical therapy services for all our Las Vegas, NV, patients.

Understanding Cervical Radiculopathy?

Cervical radiculopathy is a clinical condition caused by compression of the cervical nerve. The compression could be caused by an injury or bone deterioration affecting the cervical vertebra's discs. The nerves that run through the cervical vertebrae send messages to the brain.

These nerves branch into the vertebrae; their roots are pinched or compressed, and you can experience severe pain and discomfort. Some of the common causes of cervical radiculopathy include arthritis, herniated discs, and cervical spondylosis. These conditions are characterized by spinal cord discs and bone degeneration, which can damage the nerves.

Your risk of developing cervical radiculopathy increases under the following circumstances:

  • Advancement in age. The risk of developing cervical radiculopathy increases with age. For this reason, this condition is more common in individuals over fifty years of age.
  • Engaging in strenuous activity. If you constantly engage in strenuous activities during work or sports, you could strain your cervical vertebrae, which causes a pinch in the nerves.
  • Repetitive motions. Repeating a similar action of neck motion and vibrations can cause damage to the spinal discs, which could, in return, compress the nerves and cause pain around the neck area.
  • Diabetes. Excessive sugar in the blood can alter blood flow to the nerves, increasing the risk of nerve pinching and cervical radiculopathy.
  • You have a history of a spinal cord injury. If you have suffered trauma to your upper torso or around the neck in an accident or sporting activity, the likelihood of developing this condition could increase.

Symptoms of Cervical Radiculopathy

Understanding the symptoms of cervical radiculopathy helps you know when you need to seek immediate healthcare services. The following are some of the symptoms of cervical radiculopathy that you should look out for:

  • Pain around the neck and shoulders.
  • Tingling sensation on the neck.
  • Numbness in the affected area.
  • Muscle weaknesses.
  • Weakened reflexes.
  • Pain that radiates to other parts of the upper torso.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Cervical Radiculopathy

You can seek medical care for a pinched nerve if your pain and discomfort do not respond to exercises and other at-home treatment alternatives. Before administering tests, your healthcare provider could inquire about the following:

  • Your medical history. If you have a history of conditions like arthritis or bone degeneration, it will be easier to determine whether you have cervical radiculopathy.
  • Your history of accidents and injuries. Trauma is another cause of cervical radiculopathy. Therefore, if you are a victim of an accident or an event that resulted in trauma to the neck or upper torso, they can associate your condition with the injury.
  • The severity of your symptoms. The types and seriousness of your symptoms may help your healthcare provider determine the proper tests to perform and treatment to administer.

While your doctor will physically examine your symptoms, diagnosing cervical radiculopathy based on symptoms may be challenging. The following tests will be necessary:

  • Spine X-rays. X-ray is the most common imaging test used to evaluate your cervical vertebrae and determine the damage to the cervical nerves. Different angles of the X-ray could help reveal various issues, like disc herniation.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Your healthcare provider may order an MRI check for any soft tissue damage related to cervical radiculopathy.
  • Computerized tomography scan. Healthcare providers perform CT scans to diagnose traumatic injuries that could result in cervical radiculopathy symptoms.
  • Electromyography (EMG). An EMG test measures the response of your muscles to electricity. This helps determine whether there is an abnormality in the function of your nerves.

There are different forms of treatment available to relieve the pain and discomfort associated with cervical radiculopathy. After assessing your symptoms, your healthcare provider will recommend the correct form of treatment. Some of the factors that could impact the choice of treatment for this condition include:

  • The part of the cervical nerve that is affected.
  • The cause of your condition.
  • The nature and severity of your symptoms.
  • Your overall health.

The following are standard treatment options for cervical radiculopathy:


Cervical radiculopathy causes pain and discomfort around the neck area. Therefore, your doctor can recommend anti-inflammatory medications to relieve the pain and ease the inflammation around the affected area. You could purchase the pain medications without a prescription if your symptoms are not severe.

Steroid Injections

A cervical steroid injection is an injection containing corticosteroids or steroids. Your doctor will inject the steroids directly into the spinal nerves around the neck. The main goal of steroid injections is to relieve the irritation, pain, and discomfort associated with cervical radiculopathy.

Although this type of treatment will not lessen the pressure on the nerve, it can alleviate the pain while you seek alternatives that address the root cause of your issue. Unfortunately, not all individuals experience relief from the symptoms of steroid injections, and the treatment can have severe side effects. Therefore, before undergoing this type of treatment for your cervical radiculopathy, you must weigh the benefits and risks.


Your healthcare provider can recommend immobilization as a short-term treatment option for cervical radiculopathy. This type of treatment will involve wearing the neck back, which minimizes the movement of discs in the cervical vertebrae. A neck collar is a padded ring held by Velcro and wrapped around your neck. Since the neck ring can cause muscle atrophy, healthcare providers recommend wearing it for no more than two weeks.


When other treatment options fail to relieve the pain of cervical radiculopathy, your healthcare provider can recommend that you undergo spine surgery. The exact cause of your condition will determine the type of surgery you will undergo. If a herniated disc causes your cervical radiculopathy, you may undergo a discectomy to remove or repair the disc.

Like other surgical procedures, several complications could result from surgery, including:

  • Excessive bleeding. Since a spinal surgeon will make incisions from your skin to the muscles to access the spinal discs, the likelihood of bleeding is high. Your surgeon could attempt to reduce the risk of bleeding by recommending minimally invasive surgery.
  • Infection. If you have an immune disorder or the surgeon fails to follow the proper care techniques, you could suffer an infection on the surgical site. Some signs of infection include fever and swelling of the surgical site.
  • Persistence of the symptoms. There is no guarantee that your symptoms of cervical radiculopathy will resolve after surgery. If you still experience pain and numbness after a surgical procedure, you can return to your spinal surgeon for further treatment.

Physical Therapy for Cervical Radiculopathy

Physical therapy offers numerous benefits for patients suffering from cervical radiculopathy. The most significant advantage of using physical therapy for this condition is that it addresses the root cause and allows your body to heal naturally. With the help of an excellent physical therapist, your symptoms of cervical radiculopathy will improve significantly. Your physical therapy treatment plan could include:

Pain Management

The first goal for all treatment approaches for cervical radiculopathy is to ease the pain associated with the condition. Your physical therapist will recommend applying ice to the neck and shoulders to reduce inflammation. After forty-eight hours, you can use moist heat. Throughout the day, you may need to wear a soft shoulder collar and use a supportive pillow while sleeping.

Posture Education

Another component of your physical therapy treatment for cervical radiculopathy is education on the correct posture. In addition to muscle strain, poor posture is a significant factor contributing to the pinching of the cervical nerve. Your physical therapist could suggest that you change your work habits and posture.

The main goal of changing your posture is to provide proper neck support. During the early stages of recovery, it is recommended that you avoid sitting for more than twenty minutes. You will be further instructed on bending or lifting weights to avoid exerting excessive force on the spinal cord discs.

Motion Exercises

Your physical therapist can teach you the following exercises to relieve the symptoms of your cervical radiculopathy:

  • Cervical retraction. Commonly known as a chin tuck, cervical retraction is an exercise that allows the upper cervical vertebrae to flex and the lower cervical vertebrae to extend. With this exercise, you must sit upright on a back chair and slowly draw your head backward, like on a shelf. Moving your neck forward and backward helps relieve the pressure on your neck.
  • Traction exercise. Cervical traction is a common exercise used to ease the symptoms of cervical radiculopathy. This exercise is done by laying the lower part of your body in bed and allowing the head and upper torso to hang freely. This can help strengthen your neck muscles and ease the pain from a pinched nerve.
  • Neck extensions. Exercises that improve neck extension can help relieve the strain and discomfort associated with a pinched cervical nerve.
  • Side tilts. For cervical radiculopathy associated with stenosis or arthritis, neck tilts can help with the pain. The neck tilt exercise is simply sitting upright on a chair, tilting your neck on one side, and bending your ear to the shoulder. You can repeat for both sides a few times.
  • Shoulder circles. The pain associated with cervical radiculopathy radiates from the neck to the shoulders. Shoulder circles involve lifting your shoulders to your ears and rolling as you pinch your shoulder blades. This helps relax the upper muscles and ease the pain.
  • Isometric holds. Isometric holds are exercises that work on resistance by holding your neck muscles still. These exercises target specific spots on your cervical vertebrae.

Manual Therapy

A physical therapist will use their hands for manual exercises like cervical traction. This will help relieve the pressure and pain in the neck area. Traction and other muscle manipulation can help immediately relieve pain and numbness. In addition to relaxing your muscles, hands-on therapy can improve blood circulation around the affected area and promote healing.

Functional Training

As your pain and discomfort from cervical radiculopathy improves, the physical therapist will help you work on functional exercises. The functional exercises are aimed at helping you return to your daily activities, including work and sports. Some of the functional exercises include pulling, pushing, and overhead reaching.

Choosing a Physical Therapist

Physical therapy plays a significant role in the treatment of cervical radiculopathy. You may require physical therapy as an independent treatment strategy or after undergoing a surgical procedure. One of the benefits of choosing physical therapy for the treatment of this condition is that the physical therapy techniques are conservative.

Additionally, the body can heal naturally without dealing with the side effects of medication or the complications of spine surgery. Your choice of a physical therapist when seeking cervical radiculopathy treatment could impact the outcome of the treatment and your experience. Some of the qualities you should look out for when choosing the right physical therapist to handle your case include:

  • Desire to help. All healthcare professionals must be motivated by a desire to help people manage their health conditions. Since your physical therapist will be responsible for formulating and guiding you through a treatment plan, choosing a professional who takes their work seriously is essential.
  • Caring disposition. Most people who consult with a physical therapist for this condition are under stress, pain, and discomfort. Therefore, you need a therapist who is caring and compassionate towards your situation.
  • Experienced. Cervical radiculopathy affects the nerves of the cervical vertebrae around your neck area. This area is quite delicate, and the wrong exercises could cause severe damage to the spinal cord. Therefore, you want to work with a physical therapist with experience handling similar situations.
  • Ability to motivate, inspire, and engage patients. Patients who actively participate in their physical therapy treatment plan have shown more signs of improvement in the symptoms of cervical radiculopathy. Therefore, you will need a physical therapist to motivate and encourage you.

Prevention of Cervical Radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy causes severe pain in your neck and can hinder your ability to perform daily work or leisure activities. Fortunately, the condition can be prevented by:

Proper lifting techniques. If you work where you must constantly lift heavy weights, you must use the proper lifting techniques. These techniques help avoid excessive force on one point of the cervical spine.

  • Maintaining a healthy weight. Excessive body weight can pressurize your spine, resulting in neck strain. You can prevent the development of cervical radiculopathy by maintaining a healthy weight. If you are overweight, your physical therapist could recommend that you gradually reduce your weight.
  • Maintaining a proper posture. Poor posture when working or driving is a significant contributor to cervical radiculopathy. Therefore, your physician or physical therapist can recommend the correct posture to avoid straining your cervical vertebrae discs.
  • Stretching. You can avoid the recurrence of cervical radiculopathy by engaging in frequent stretching exercises.
  • Taking frequent breaks. If you engage in strenuous activities throughout the day, you should normalize taking breaks. This allows your muscles and spinal cord to relax.

Find an Expert Physical Therapist Near Me

You may be diagnosed with cervical radiculopathy if you experience pain and weakness around the neck and shoulder areas. Having cervical radiculopathy can be uncomfortable and annoying. You may be at risk of developing this condition if your work involves lifting heavy weights or engaging in strenuous activities.

If you experience symptoms of cervical radiculopathy that do not go away after a week or more, you should consult with a healthcare provider. The nature of your symptoms and the exact cause of the cervical radiculopathy will be determined, which will help assess the right treatment for you. The treatments for cervical radiculopathy range from medication to physical therapy and surgery.

Physical therapy is a conservative treatment that allows your body to heal naturally. When you consult a physical therapist, they will take you through individualized exercises to strengthen your muscles. Additionally, the physical therapist could guide you on the correct posture to avoid the recurrence of the condition.

If you are diagnosed with cervical radiculopathy in Las Vegas, NV, you will benefit from the safe and reliable physical therapy services we offer our patients at Suarez Physical Therapy. Contact us at 702-368-6778 to book an appointment.