The Anatomy of the Spine
Your spine consists of 33 vertebrae separated by spinal discs, which act as shock absorbers between each vertebra. Behind the column of vertebrae and discs is the spinal canal, which is a tunnel, formed by a series of bony arches called laminae.
Through this tunnel is your spinal cord. The lamina and vertebrae hook together by a series of joints called facet joints.
At each disc level, there is a pair of nerves, which exit the spinal canal on each side through openings called foramen. These spinal nerves or nerve roots radiate down your shoulders, arms, and hand and supply your muscles, joints, and skin. When the nerve roots become compressed, pinched or irritated in the spinal canal or foramen it can cause the pain and numbness in your arms and hands.
What Causes Cervical Radiculopathy?
Cervical Radiculopathy is a pinched nerve in one or more of the nerve roots in the cervical spine.
Common causes of Cervical Radiculopathy
- Herniated Disk
- Degenerative Disk Disease
- Spinal Stenosis
Herniated Disk – The most common cause is a herniated disc, a rupture in the fibrous outer wall of a spinal disc, which can bulge outward causing compression in the nerve root.
Degenerative Disk Disease – Another common cause is degenerative disk disease, an age-related condition that causes the spinal disks to become weak and lose height. When these cushions are compromised your vertebra bones touch, which can result in pinched nerve roots.
Spinal Stenosis – When bones on the spine touch it can cause bony growths called bone spurs. These growths can form inside joints or openings within the spinal column resulting in compression of the spinal cord or nerve roots.
Damage to the nerve roots in the upper part of the spine is what causes pain in the upper extremities. This damage can be severe to minor, long-lasting or temporary.
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