Cervical radiculopathy: epidemiology, etiology, diagnosis, and treatment

J Spinal Disord Tech. 2015 Jun;28(5):E251-9. doi: 10.1097/BSD.0000000000000284.


Cervical radiculopathy is a relatively common neurological disorder resulting from nerve root dysfunction, which is often due to mechanical compression; however, inflammatory cytokines released from damaged intervertebral disks can also result in symptoms. Cervical radiculopathy can often be diagnosed with a thorough history and physical examination, but an magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomographic myelogram should be used to confirm the diagnosis. Because of the ubiquity of degenerative changes found on these imaging modalities, the patient's symptoms must correlate with pathology for a successful diagnosis. In the absence of myelopathy or significant muscle weakness all patients should be treated conservatively for at least 6 weeks. Conservative treatments consist of immobilization, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, cervical traction, and epidural steroid injections. Cervical radiculopathy typically is self-limiting with 75%-90% of patients achieving symptomatic improvement with nonoperative care. For patients who are persistently symptomatic despite conservative treatment, or those who have a significant functional deficit surgical treatment is appropriate. Surgical options include anterior cervical decompression and fusion, cervical disk arthroplasty, and posterior foraminotomy. Patient selection is critical to optimize outcome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Cervical Vertebrae*
  • Decompression, Surgical
  • Humans
  • Orthopedic Procedures
  • Radiculopathy / diagnosis
  • Radiculopathy / epidemiology
  • Radiculopathy / etiology
  • Radiculopathy / therapy*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal