In simple terms, cervicobrachial neuralgia can be described as neck pain radiating to the arm because of compression to the nerve roots in the cervical spinal cord.
The cervical spinal cord is the section of the spine comprised of the first seven vertebrae and its associated intervertebral discs as well as the spinal cord the vertebrae protect; this is the area we call the neck. ‘Cervicobrachial’ literally means relating to the neck and arm, while ‘brachial neuralgia’ usually refers to the pain associated with a brachial plexus injury.
A plexus is the name for a group of nerve fibres and the brachial plexus runs from the spine, through the neck, the axilla or underarm, and into the arm. Because all of the nerves that control the arm come from thie brachial plexus, a problem with the plexus could lead to severe impairment.
Risk Factors and Causes of Cervicobrachial Neuralgia
Cervicobrachial neuralgia can be either inherited or acquired. The pain is usually brought on by the damage of a nerve or compression to the brachial plexus as the result of an injury. Research has shown that those that are suffering from depression or anxiety are at a higher risk for developing cervicobrachial neuralgia.
Many studies are also pointing towards an association between the disorder and tendonitis of the upper limb. It is not unusual to see algodystrophy of the shoulder in the same cases as cervicobrachial neuralgia. In rare cases, the disorder is caused by a vertebral artery loop formation.
Symptoms of Cervicobrachial Neuralgia
‘Neuralgia’ actually describes the sort of pain that is common with the disorder. It is a catch-all term that describes a shooting, burning, stabbing pain, electric-like shocks, and a tingling sensation all co-existing. This pain is usually brief but severe.
This pain can come from the shoulder or the neck. In addition, there can be muscle weakness in the arm, a loss of sensation anywhere from the arm up to the neck, and more intense pain at night. If left untreated, these symptoms could go on for upwards of a year, so it is best to consult a doctor if these symptoms last more than a few days.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Cervicobrachial Neuralgia
Your doctor will be able to make a diagnosis based on your medical history, a description of your symptoms and a physical examination. The doctor may also order an MRI or a CT scan, which can confirm the compression of the nerve roots at the spinal cord level.
Treatment for cercivobrachial neuralgia will depend on the severity of the problem. For less severe cases, it may be a matter of pain management with anti-inflammatory or pain medications until the pain begins to subside.
Other conservative therapies that have had good results include chiropractic therapy and planned physiotherapy sessions. More severe cases may need to undergo surgical decompression in order to relieve the pressure and begin to heal.