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What is Cervical neuralgia?

Cervical neuralgia is a term for pain and other symptoms associated with nerve dysfunction or injury in the cervical (upper) region of the spine. This can be caused by different conditions, but the common symptoms can be very disruptive to your quality of life.

The cervical spine supports the head and protects the spinal cord while being flexible enough to allow for a wide range of head movement. Over time, the combination of weight and added stress from movement causes wear, which can lead to degeneration of the spinal anatomy.

While degenerative spine conditions are not always symptomatic, bone spurs, herniated discs or deteriorating spinal joints can cause painful compression or irritation of the spinal cord or adjacent nerve roots, resulting in neuralgia.

Symptoms associated with cervical neuralgia

The nerves that branch off from the cervical spine give sensation to the upper body, including the head, neck, shoulders, arms and hands. When nerve compression occurs within the neck area, it can produce the following symptoms related to cervical neuralgia:

  • Sharp or constant pain in the neck, shoulders or upper back
  • Pain or a burning sensation that radiates along the length of a nerve, down the arm and into the hands and fingers
  • Pain associated with rotating or twisting the head
  • Tightness or stiffness in the neck, shoulders or upper back
  • Tenderness when the area is touched
  • Headaches

How is Cervical Neuralgia Diagnosed?

If there is a suspicion of Cervical Neuralgia, the treating physician will begin by asking questions as to when the symptoms started. The physician will also ask about your past medical history to see if there have been any prior injuries to the cervical spine before even if it had been overlooked by you. The physician will then perform a physical examination and will start by moving the cervical spine or the neck region in different direction and look for any pain with movement. The physician will also look for areas of tenderness in the cervical spine on palpation and even see if any pain is reproduced. The physician may then order imaging studies to look at the internal structures of the cervical spine to see if there are any areas of compression of the nerves or any degeneration of the spine which is causing irritation resulting in the symptoms. The physician may give you a nerve block to relieve the pain and if the pain is successfully relieved with this block then it more or less confirmed that Cervical Neuralgia is the cause of your symptoms.

Treatment for cervical neuralgia

Conservative treatment methods, such as pain medication, neck brace exercise or spinal injections are often effective at managing symptoms associated with cervical nerve compression. However, surgery may become an option if chronic symptoms persist after a full course of conservative therapy. 

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