Cervical radiculopathy

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1994 Mar;75(3):342-52. doi: 10.1016/0003-9993(94)90040-x.


The history, pathoanatomy and pathophysiology, clinical picture, differential diagnosis, diagnostic evaluation, and treatment of cervical radiculopathy are reviewed. The review is based on a 10-year Medline literature search, review of bibliographies in textbooks, and bibliographies in articles obtained through the search. Cervical radiculopathy, although recognized early in the 20th century, was first associated with disc pathology in the mid-1930s. It is most commonly caused by disc herniation or cervical spondylosis. History and physical examination using pain location, manual muscle testing, and specialized testing (Spurling's maneuver) will usually suffice to diagnose the radiculopathy and determine the root level involved. Diagnostic imaging such as magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, or myelography should be used as presurgical evaluative tools or when tumor or other etiology besides disc herniation or spondylosis is suspected. Electromyography is of benefit in distinguishing various entities that clinically present similar to cervical radiculopathy and can also help to "date" the lesion. Treatment of this disorder has not been systematically studied in a controlled fashion. However, using a variety of different treatments, the radiculopathy usually improves without the need for surgery. Indications for surgery are unremitting pain despite a full trial of non-surgical management, progressive weakness, or new or progressive cervical myelopathy. Prospective studies evaluating the various treatment options would be of great benefit in guiding practitioners toward optimum cost-effective evaluation and care of the patient with cervical radiculopathy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Electrodiagnosis
  • Humans
  • Injections, Epidural
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neck
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Physical Examination
  • Radiculopathy* / diagnosis
  • Radiculopathy* / epidemiology
  • Radiculopathy* / etiology
  • Radiculopathy* / physiopathology
  • Radiculopathy* / therapy
  • Steroids / therapeutic use
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Traction
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Steroids