An evidence-based clinical guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of cervical radiculopathy from degenerative disorders

Spine J. 2011 Jan;11(1):64-72. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2010.10.023.


Background context: The North American Spine Society (NASS) Evidence-Based Clinical Guideline on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Cervical Radiculopathy from Degenerative Disorders provides evidence-based recommendations on key clinical questions concerning the diagnosis and treatment of cervical radiculopathy from degenerative disorders. The guideline addresses these questions based on the highest quality clinical literature available on this subject as of May 2009. The guideline's recommendations assist the practitioner in delivering optimum efficacious treatment of and functional recovery from this common disorder.

Purpose: Provide an evidence-based educational tool to assist spine care providers in improving quality and efficiency of care delivered to patients with cervical radiculopathy from degenerative disorders.

Study design: Systematic review and evidence-based clinical guideline.

Methods: This report is from the Cervical Radiculopathy from Degenerative Disorders Work Group of the NASS' Evidence-Based Clinical Guideline Development Committee. The work group consisted of multidisciplinary spine care specialists trained in the principles of evidence-based analysis. Each member of the group formatted a series of clinical questions to be addressed by the group. The final questions agreed on by the group are the subjects of this report. A literature search addressing each question using a specific search protocol was performed on English language references found in MEDLINE, EMBASE (Drugs and Pharmacology), and four additional evidence-based databases. The relevant literature was then independently rated by a minimum of three reviewers using the NASS-adopted standardized levels of evidence. An evidentiary table was created for each of the questions. Final recommendations to answer each clinical question were arrived at via work group discussion, and grades were assigned to the recommendations using standardized grades of recommendation. In the absence of Levels I to IV evidence, work group consensus statements have been developed using a modified nominal group technique, and these statements are clearly identified as such in the guideline.

Results: Eighteen clinical questions were formulated, addressing issues of natural history, diagnosis, and treatment of cervical radiculopathy from degenerative disorders. The answers are summarized in this article. The respective recommendations were graded by the strength of the supporting literature, which was stratified by levels of evidence.

Conclusions: A clinical guideline for cervical radiculopathy from degenerative disorders has been created using the techniques of evidence-based medicine and best available evidence to aid both practitioners and patients involved with the care of this condition. The entire guideline document, including the evidentiary tables, suggestions for future research, and all references, is available electronically at the NASS Web site ( and will remain updated on a timely schedule.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cervical Vertebrae*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Radiculopathy / diagnosis*
  • Radiculopathy / etiology
  • Radiculopathy / therapy*
  • Spinal Diseases / complications*