The human neck is comprised of seven vertebral bones known as the cervical area of the spine. This column of bones is stacked on top of each other and houses the upper portion of the spinal cord and many nerve roots that shoot off and go to different areas of the body. Whenever one of these nerve roots becomes impinged, compressed or irritated, it can cause pain, numbness, weakness and altered reflexes in the shoulder, arm, hand or fingers. This condition is known as cervical radiculopathy or a “pinched nerve”.
When a patient comes to see me for this problem, they typically have seen either their PCP or an Orthopaedist for an exam. Sometimes, the issue will be determined to be a boney malformation, such as an osteophyte (bone spur) pressing on the nerve that will show up on x-ray. Other times, an MR scan will have been ordered, which may reveal that a bulging or herniated spinal disc may be impinging on the nerve, causing the irritation. Usually, before they get to me, the patient has already tried NSAIDs, Physical Therapy and oral steroids to try to reduce the inflammation of the nerve. Often, the patient is given the option of seeing me for one last conservative treatment before considering the possibility of surgery.
When I meet with a patient who have been confirmed by me to have a diagnosis of cervical radiculopathy, I review their MR scans with them. I then discuss the treatment option that I use most successfully to treat pinched nerves, which is an epidural steroid injection. I discuss the benefits of these injections, which are many, and the risks, which are relatively few. We discuss any possible complications, side-effects and issues that could arise. Ultimately, my patients always make the call as to whether or not to have the injection, but most are very happy that they did so.
Although I have given thousands of these injections in my career and have patients who have come to me for as long as I have been in practice for these injections, the simple mention of them can make some patients feel squeamish. Trust me, we do everything we can to make patients comfortable during their injection. We use numbing medication to make the injection easier. We blow fans on patients to keep them cool, we put ice packs on them if they feel faint, we get them stress balls to squeeze, we play music, we talk to them, etc. The injection is typically over in a few minutes and after a 15-20 minute safe-waiting period, the patient is free to go home with their driver.
The payoff is that most patients report a significant decrease in their symptoms within a few days to a few weeks. You may be wondering when you will notice a difference and then you’ll realize that you haven’t felt pain or numbness in quite a while. Some patients find they are symptom-free for a few months and others may be so for over a year.
Make an appointment with Dr. Sureja or another OSC provider by clicking the “Request Appointment” button below or by calling (757) 596-1900.