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 Definition Irritation or pinching of a nerve in the neck that causes pain down to the shoulder, arm or hand.
Details The nerves that control the shoulder, arm and hand start in the neck within the spinal cord. If these nerves are inflamed or compressed, pain and/or weakness can occur.
Causes Disk herniation (slipping out of place) and arthritic spurs in the neck are the most common causes of cervical radiculopathy. Injuries to the neck can also cause this disorder and are potentially very serious. Fractures of the spine must be considered if any persistent pain or weakness in the arm occurs after an neck injury.
Diagnosis Pain in the neck that moves toward the shoulder, arm or hand is a common symptom in cervical radiculopathy. Weakness of the muscles of the arm may also be present. X-rays of the neck are taken to evaluate the bones. Typically, if the symptoms are severe, an MRI is ordered to carefully look at the nerves and disks in the neck.
Treatment Nonoperative: Rest, anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy are the main nonoperative measures. Cortisone injections are another nonsurgical means of treatment.

Operative: If nonoperative measures fail, or if significant symptoms are present, surgery is considered. The surgery involves removing the disk material or spurs that are compressing the nerves and may be done in combination with fusion of some of the neck spinal bones.

Maintaining excellent strength, flexibility and balance around the neck and shoulder may help prevent some forms of cervical radiculopathy.