Cervical Radiculopathy

What is cervical radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy is a spinal nerve root condition caused by nerve compression, inflammation, or injury that can trigger back, arm, and leg pain. Radiculopathy can occur at any point along the spine from the neck along the middle back to the lower spine. When this injury is located in the neck (cervical spine), it is called cervical radiculopathy.

What causes cervical radiculopathy?

Cervical radiculopathy can have several different causes. They include:

What are the symptoms of cervical radiculopathy?

When there is pressure on a nerve from the spinal cord, over time the increased pressure can damage the nerve and irritate or damage peripheral nerves beyond the spinal cord. Symptoms accompanying a pinched spinal nerve include the following:

  • Uncomfortable tingling sensations. This tingling is similar to the prickling feeling you experience when your foot falls asleep, except that prickling caused by a pinched nerve is persistent; it doesn’t shake out in a few minutes.
  • The discomfort caused by a pinched nerve is often described as “sharp” and “electrical.”
  • Muscle weakness. This symptom may occur in severe cases where a nerve controlling a muscle has been irritated.

How is cervical radiculopathy diagnosed?

To diagnose cervical radiculopathy, your physician will review your health history and perform a physical examination. Your doctor may also recommend diagnostic imaging, such as an X-ray or MRI, to assist in diagnosis.

How is cervical radiculopathy treated nonsurgically?

Summit Orthopedics is home to the area’s top spine specialists for cervical radiculopathy treatment. When cervical radiculopathy is diagnosed, conservative, nonsurgical treatment is usually the first step. Ninety percent of people with cervical radiculopathy recover without needing surgery.

Nonsurgical treatment options include:

What are the surgical treatment options for cervical radiculopathy?

If there is no improvement after approximately six weeks, a surgery to decompress the nerve may be considered. In rare cases when a patient is experiencing severe neck or arm pain and progressive muscle weakness, surgery may be considered sooner.

Common surgical options to relieve cervical radiculopathy include:

  • Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF)
  • Cervical disc replacement
  • Decompression surgeries, including laminectomy and foraminotomy

Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion

Anterior cervical discectomy with fusion is a surgical procedure that involves relieving the pressure placed on nerve roots and/or the spinal cord by a herniated disc or bone spurs in the neck.

How is an ACDF performed?
Through a small incision made near the front of the neck, the surgeon:

  • Removes the intervertebral disc to access the compressed nerves
  • Relieves the pressure by removing its source
  • Places a bone graft between the two vertebrae
  • In some cases, adds metal plates or pins that will provide extra support and stability to help ensure proper fusion

Disc replacement surgery

Through a small incision made near the front of the neck, the surgeon:

  • Removes the intervertebral disc to access the compressed nerves
  • Relieves the pressure by removing its source
  • Places an artificial disc between vertebrae

More resources on disc replacement surgery:


The goal of laminectomy is to relieve the pressure on the spinal nerves that is causing your symptoms.

How laminectomy works

  • Your orthopedic surgeon will make an incision near the center of your spine.
  • Through this incision, any bone spurs and damaged disc material are removed.
  • Then, the incision is closed with sutures.
  • As you heal in the weeks following surgery, the muscles and ligaments of the back will fill in the space where the lamina used to be.


A foraminotomy is another kind of decompression surgery that aims to reduce the pressure on your spinal nerves. The surgeon makes more room for the nerves by enlarging the opening the nerves travel through on their way out of the spinal canal.

Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive spine expertise

Summit Orthopedics’ Spine Care program is recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance for the comprehensive expertise of our patient-centered care. Our back specialists diagnose spine problems and design custom treatment plans built on a conservative, nonsurgical approach. Most patients find relief through treatments including guided injections, specialized physical therapy, biofeedback, exercise, activity modification, and medication. When conservative care does not relieve symptoms, our highly skilled surgeons offer proven, evidence-based surgical options. Together with you, we will determine the right course of action.

Start your journey to a healthy spine. Find your spine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968-5201 to schedule a spine consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MNPlymouth, MNVadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.

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