What causes cervical radiculopathy?

Updated: Oct 08, 2018
  • Author: Gerard A Malanga, MD; Chief Editor: Sherwin SW Ho, MD  more...
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Little is known about the natural history of cervical radiculopathy. The pathogenesis of radiculopathy involves an inflammatory process initiated by nerve root compression. Evidence exists that inflammatory mediators, including nitric oxide, prostaglandin E2, interleukin-6, and matrix metalloproteinases, are released by herniated intervertebral discs. [15, 16] This results in nerve root swelling. The compression may be from a disc herniation, degenerative changes about the neural foramen, or a combination of the 2.

A study in patients with cervical disc disease found that compression of a nerve root produced limb pain, whereas pressure on the disc produced pain in the neck and medial border of the scapula. [17] Results from intradiscal injection and electrical stimulation of the disc have also suggested that neck pain is referred by a damaged outer annulus. [18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23] Muscle spasms of the neck have also been found after electrical stimulation of the disc.

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