Cervical Radiculopathy Physical Therapy

Lumbar and cervical radiculopathy refers to the radiating nerve symptoms down the arms (cervical) or legs (lumbar). It is vital to seek assistance from a physical therapist to help determine the cause of the symptoms and the appropriate cervical radiculopathy physical therapy treatment.


Symptoms of lumbar/cervical radiculopathy include nerve symptoms into the arms or legs, depending on where the injury started (such as cervical or lumbar spine). Nerve symptoms can include a combination or one of the following: tingling, pins/needles, numbness, or pain.

Depending upon your position, the radiating pain can change from a dull ache to a sharp shooting pain. Something as simple as moving from lying down on your right side to seated on a soft sofa can cause increased symptoms down your arm or leg. In its most severe form, burning and tingling into the hands can limit fine motor activities such as handwriting, typing, holding objects of various sizes, painting, cooking, and even something as simple as brushing your teeth.


Discs are fibrocartilaginous spacers between your vertebrae. Vertebrae are the bones that make up the spine. A disc is composed of a harder ring of cartilage surrounding an inside of softer cartilage. Discs act to absorb shock throughout the spine and allow the spine to move efficiently. In some cases, the discs may move and protrude past the edge of the vertebrae, pressing on a nerve and resulting in pain. This is known as a bulging disc and pinched nerve. When the disc protrudes further and the inner ring of cartilage is exposed past the vertebral edge also pressing on a nerve, this is known as a disc herniation.

Other causes include the shifting and possible fracture of the vertebrae which can also apply pressure to the spinal cord creating radicular symptoms, often to right and left extremities. This is more common in the lumbar spine.

Severe spinal stenosis,degenerative disc disease, a space occupying lesion such as a tumor, or other systemic inflammatory diseases such as Lyme’s Disease or Guillan-Barre can also cause radiating pain in the shoulder or arm.

Cervical Radiculopathy Diagnosis

Your physical therapist will start by performing a thorough evaluation of your symptoms. Your therapist will assess your posture, mobility, sensation, strength, and ability to perform functional activities. Your physical therapist will also take into account your home, work, and recreational activities. After the evaluation, your therapist will have a better understanding of the cause of the radiculopathy, which will help to pave the way for an appropriate treatment plan.

Our physical therapists will also perform special tests to determine if the cause of the pain is related to arthritis, muscle spasm, a herniated disc, or other causes. Testing your arm and hand strength will allow us to determine which myotome and dermatome are being affected by the radiculopathy.

Treatment and Cervical Radiculopathy Diagnosis

The focus of cervical radiculopathy physical therapy will be to relieve the pressure on the affected nerves through exercise and manual therapy techniques to achieve less pain, greater overall strength and core stability, and to prevent future re-injury. Exercises will be tailored to your goals and recreational activities to ensure you return to doing what you love most.

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