Diagnosis and treatment of cervical radiculopathy using a clinical prediction rule and a multimodal intervention approach: a case series

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2006 Mar;36(3):152-9. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2006.36.3.152.


Study design: Case series.

Objectives: To describe an established method of diagnosing cervical radiculopathy (CR) using a clinical prediction rule (CPR), and to describe the management of 6 patients using intermittent cervical traction (ICT), thoracic thrust joint manipulation (TJM), and exercise.

Background: Many patients present with unilateral arm pain without having undergone magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the cervical spine. Using a CPR has demonstrated high levels of specificity to rule in cervical radiculopathy. ICT and manual therapy (including thoracic TJM) are widely used in clinical settings to treat cervical radiculopathy.

Case description: Six patients (3 men, 3 women) were diagnosed with cervical radiculopathy using the CPR. All patients were treated with ICT, thoracic TJM, and exercise. The Northwick Park Neck Questionnaire served as the outcome measure.

Outcomes: The CPR accurately identified CR (secondary to a disc herniation) in 4 out of 4 patients when compared to the results of a reference standard (MRI). Six patients were seen from 5 to 18 sessions over a 19- to 56-day period. Reduction in Northwick Park Neck Questionnaire scores ranged from 13% to 88%. One patient did not improve significantly and underwent neck surgery.

Discussion: Using the CPR may be beneficial in diagnosing CR, so the clinician can devise a plan of care and assess treatment outcomes in a relatively homogenous group of patients. It is possible that a treatment regimen of ICT, thoracic TJM, and exercise will aid in centralizing radicular symptoms and improving functional outcomes in patients with CR.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cervical Vertebrae
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Manipulation, Spinal
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Examination / methods
  • Posture
  • Radiculopathy / diagnosis*
  • Radiculopathy / therapy*
  • Traction
  • Treatment Outcome