Symptoms radiating from the neck

cervical radic color diagram

Neck conditions may effect the neck (cervical spine) nerves, causing symptoms which show up elsewhere.

Spinal nerve irritation may cause one to notice numbness, tingling, pain, &/or weakness extending down to either shoulder blade, shoulder, arm, elbow, forearm, wrist, hand &/or to the fingers.

Because the cause of the problem is in the cervical spine symptoms present elsewhere, this is known as a ‘referral’ of symptoms.

A common example of referred symptoms is when the heart is distressed due to a lack of oxygen (angina) and discomfort is noticed, often in the form of tightness or pressure, in the throat, neck, jaw, shoulder, or down an arm.

Radiculitis is the medical term for symptoms which radiate along the course of a nerve, thought to be due to inflammation affecting that nerve.

Radiculopathy is the medical term for what occurs with sustained irritation, interference and inflammation on a nerve, where perhaps the oxygen level to the nerve tissue is impeded and the nerve tissue itself starts to become sick.

Sick nerves don’t transmit nerve signals as well so hence:  Numbness, tingling, pain, &/or weakness to the shoulder blade, shoulder, arm, forearm, wrist, hand, &/or fingers.

MRI, Cervical

Often we consult with patients, who are unaware that their symptoms may be emanating upstream from a nerve, or even the brain.

Common brain problems which can create referred symptoms include stroke and multiple sclerosis.

Notice in the above picture how the fingers, forearm, arm, shoulder, and neck are each a different color.  This illustrates how a different spinal nerve level in the neck supplies different parts of the body.

Neck (cervical spine) nerve’s supply:

C1 through C3 neck nerves may affect the neck, upper back, shoulder, and/or chest.

C4 and C5 neck nerves may affect the shoulder, upper chest, upper arm, and/or upper back.

C6 neck nerves may affect the outside part of the elbow, elbow, forearm,  thumb,  index fingers, and/or upper back.  Muscles which flex your elbow may be weak.

C7 and C8 neck nerves may affect the inside part of the elbow, forearm, and/or fingers.  Grip strength may be weak & the patient may report that they ‘drop’ things.

illustrations of cervical radiculopathy

This information is not to be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please talk to your health care provider for anything related to your health including but not limited to diagnosis, treatment advice and/or care. Always seek the advice of a health care professional. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. If you are in the United States and are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or call for emergency medical help on the nearest telephone.