Pinched nerve syndrome described by top neurosurgeon

A nerve root injury, which is sometimes referred to as a “pinched” nerve—or medically known as cervical radiculopathy, is often experienced by patients in the form of  neck pain that spreads out into the shoulder and arm. According to Dr. John Lipani founding Director of Princeton Neurological Surgery, P.C. and Brain and Spine Radiosurgery Institute, their pain is often caused by an injury near the root of a spinal nerve. 

Deterioration of the cervical spine can result in a number of painful conditions including cervical radiculopathy. These conditions can include problems in the neck as well as problems which come from nerves being irritated or pinched. A cervical radiculopathy is a problem that results when a nerve in the neck is irritated as it leaves the spinal canal. This condition usually occurs when a nerve root is being pinched by a herniated disc or a bone spur.

When a nerve root leaves the spinal cord and the cervical spine it travels down into the arm. Along the way each nerve supplies sensation to the skin of the shoulder and arm. It also supplies electrical signals to certain muscles to move part of the arm or hand. When a nerve is irritated or pinched—by either a bone spur or a part of the intervertebral disc—it causes problems in the nerve and the nerve does not work quite right. This can present as weakness in the muscles, numbness in the skin, or pain.

This can happen from a herniated disc or bulging disc—two very painful conditions. Another cause may be degenerative disc disease, which can cause bone spurs (bony growths) to grow around, and irritate the nerve roots. The irritation causes pain to run down the arm, numbness to occur in the areas the nerve provides sensation to and weakness in the muscles that the nerve supplies.

Cervical radiculopathy can be treated with a combination of pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, or non-steroidal pain medication and physical therapy. Steroids may be prescribed either orally or injected epidurally (into the space above the dura, which is the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord).

Physical therapy including gentle cervical traction and mobilization, exercises, or other options to reduce pain may also be helpful. If a considerable amount of compression of the nerve exists—especially if motor weakness results, surgery may be necessary to relieve the pressure.

Princeton Neurological Surgery specializes in treatment of cervical radiculopathy (pinched nerve).

If you believe that you have a pinched nerve or have questions about cervical radiculopathy contact Dr. Lipani and Princeton Neurological Surgery directly at or call 609-890-3400.

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