Cervical radiculopathy, commonly called a "pinched nerve" occurs when a nerve in the neck is compressed or irritated where it branches away from the spinal cord. This may cause pain that radiates into the shoulder, as well as muscle weakness and numbness that travels down the arm and into the hand.
What causes cervical radiculopathy?
Cervical radiculopathy most often arises from degenerative changes that occur in the spine as we age or from an injury that causes a herniated, or bulging, intervertebral disk.
Degenerative changes: the disks in the spine age, they lose height and begin to bulge. They also lose water content, begin to dry out, and become stiffer. This problem causes settling, or collapse, of the disk spaces and loss of disk space height.
Degenerative changes in the disks are often called arthritis or spondylosis. These changes are normal and they occur in everyone. In fact, nearly half of all people middle-aged and older have worn disks and pinched nerves that do not cause painful symptoms. It is not known why some patients develop symptoms and others do not.
A disk herniates when its jelly-like center (nucleus) pushes against its outer ring (annulus).When the herniated disk bulges out toward the spinal canal, it puts pressure on the sensitive nerve root, causing pain and weakness in the area the nerve supplies.
A herniated disk often occurs with lifting, pulling, bending, or twisting movements.