Neck (Cervical) Pain Radiating from neck

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When Pain is Radiating from the Neck

Radiating neck pain is often caused by damage to the cervical spine that is also affected surrounding nerve tissue and is causing that pain to “spread” from the neck to other parts of the body including the shoulder, arms, hands and fingers.

Neck Pain Symptoms – Radiating Pain

One potential cause of radiating neck pain is whiplash, a non-medical term associated with neck pain that typically occurs due to an abnormal movement or force outside of the neck’s range of motion. Whiplash most commonly occurs from car accidents, falls, assault, and sporting activities. Whiplash is also referred to as a cervical sprain or strain, or a hyper-extension injury.

Is Pain Radiating from the Neck a Symptom of Neck Damage?

Common symptoms of radiating neck pain and/or whiplash include neck swelling, tenderness, headache, muscle spasms, shooting pain, and difficulty moving the neck in its normal range of motion.

The neck is medically referred to by health care providers as the cervical spine. When we talk about the spine, the cervical area is included in the discussion because it contains the seven uppermost vertebrae of the spine. Like many areas of the spine, the neck is a complex region of the body and it contains a large number of nerves, any of which can become irritated, compressed or inflamed.  Presenting with a range of symptoms, cervical radiculopathy as a symptom of neck pain is most commonly described as a radiating neck pain that can extend to the upper extremities including the arms and hands.

Generally, the individual with radiating neck as a symptom of cervical spine damage will experience it particularly as weakness, numbness, and even pain in areas affected by a damaged or inflamed nerve. Described by patients as dull to intense and burning in some cases, the condition often leads to numbness that can occur anywhere from the shoulder and arm to the tips of the fingers. Movement of the head and neck can also exacerbate the pain, and simply turning the head from side to side may lead to radiating neck pain.

Some patients explain that a hand supporting their neck temporarily alleviates pain or lessens symptoms, but this will differs based on the nerve or nerves affected. This is due to the underlying causes and to the type of cervical condition that the patient has developed. The usual causes of this condition may include a cervical herniated disc, cervical degenerative disc disease or cervical spinal stenosis. In the herniated disc, inner material of the disc is inflamed or even leaks outward and interferes with the nerve. In degenerative disc disease, the disc or discs degenerate and allow a nerve to be exposed and/or pinched. In spinal stenosis, degeneration occurs and causes tightening of the space in the spinal canal.

Radiating neck pain as a symptom of cervical radiculopathy also differs based on where on the spine it occurs, with vertebrae C5-C8 the most commonly affected. The C5 type often causes pain in the shoulders and upper arms, C6 in the length of the arm, wrists and index finger. The C7 type strikes the neck to the hand, and the middle finger. The C8 type typically causes pain in the neck that radiates down the arm and into the hand.

To ensure optimal spinal health and to combat the damage that can be caused by conditions resulting radiating neck pain symptoms, be sure to alert your doctor to any neck pain you have been experiencing, especially if it has lasted for three months or longer.

Neck Pain Symptoms

  • Various conditions contribute to the development of neck pain, and none should be ignored
  • Pain in the neck that radiates into the arm or hand is a warning sign of problems with the cervical spine
  • Pain accompanied by weakness, or numbness in the neck that extends through the hand may be a sign of nerve inflammation or compression
  • Specific symptoms are important to spine doctors as they are used to determine the nerves and vertebrae affected

Health Tips For Radiating Neck

  • Some forms of cervical radiculopathy are unavoidable and can result in radiating neck pain
  • Use light neck exercises to help overcome stiffness and discomfort associated with radiating neck pain
  • Invest in a cervical pillow to help alleviate radiating neck pain symptoms at home
  • Some patients may require surgery to overcome cervical conditions that cause radiating neck pain

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