Physical Therapy For Cervical Radiculopathy

Physical Therapy For Cervical Radiculopathy | Capitol Physical Therapy Orthopedics And Pain Management Washington DC

You use the muscles in your neck, back, and arms for a wide variety of everyday tasks.

Therefore, injuries to those muscles can present significant obstacles to your work and personal responsibilities.

If you’ve been diagnosed with cervical radiculopathy, this might sound all too familiar.

Living with a neck injury is no walk in the park.

The pain alone can make it difficult to work, exercise, and even move.

You might have already tried a variety of pain relief options, such as over the counter painkillers or anti inflammatory medications.

But have you tried physical therapy?

At Capitol Physical Therapy, we offer physical therapy for back and neck pain that can not only help with pain management, but also provide lasting symptom relief and recovery.

Keep reading today’s article to find out how physical therapy services can help with radiculopathy.

What Is Cervical Radiculopathy?

Cervical radiculopathy is defined as pain that may move from your neck to your shoulder, shoulder blade, arm, or hand.

You might’ve also heard it referred to as a “pinched nerve” in the neck.

RELATED: Understanding Neck Pain

It affects approximately 85 out of 100,000 Americans and most commonly affects people in their 50s or older.

RELATED: Seniors’ Health Physical Therapy

Cervical radiculopathy typically develops due to compression (lack of space) within the nerves in your spinal cord.

This most commonly occurs following chronic muscle irritation caused by repetitive movements.

Thus, it’s most often diagnosed in people with jobs that require repetitive movements, such as:

Other potential causes for cervical radiculopathy include:

How Do You Know You Have Cervical Radiculopathy?

You can think of your spinal cord as a tree and your nerves as its branches.

The tree’s branches carry messages to various parts of your body.

Therefore, too much pressure on the trunk of the tree can cause issues in several areas.

The most obvious symptom of cervical radiculopathy is the presence of pain that might move from your neck to your shoulder, arm, or hand.

The type of pain experienced can differ from person to person.

The pain typically occurs on the same side of the body as the affected nerve.

It’s commonly described as

  • A sharp pain, pins and needles or a popping sensation in your neck region
  • A dull ache, numbness or tingling, or an electrical sensation along your nerve pathways
  • Pain that worsens with certain neck movements, such as looking up towards the ceiling or over your shoulder
  • Weakness or loss of coordination in your shoulder, arm, or hand

Your symptoms might improve by placing your arm over and behind your head.

This type of movement relieves tension in your spinal nerve.

Additionally, your symptoms might depend on the specific nerve root involved.

For instance, damage to the C6 nerve root can cause weakness in your bicep muscle whereas C7 nerve root damage causes triceps muscle weakness.

How Do Physical Therapists Diagnose Cervical Radiculopathy?

Physical therapists are skilled at diagnosing and treating neck and back injuries such as cervical radiculopathy.

Your physical therapist will begin by conducting a thorough evaluation of a variety of factors, including your physical symptoms as well as your daily activities.

This helps them determine which factors are contributing to your condition as well as the type of therapy that might help.

Throughout your evaluation, your physical therapist will ask a variety of questions concerning your health history, conditions, and activities.

Some of the questions you might be asked include:

  • How did your injury occur?
  • How do your symptoms changed your typical day and activities?
  • Does your pain vary during the day?
  • Which movements cause you pain?

Your physical therapist might also conduct tests on your nearby muscles in order to rule out other conditions.

These tests might include:

  • Testing the movement of your neck and arms
  • Checking your tendon reflexes and strength
  • Conducting tests on your neck to determine which spinal nerve root(s) are involved

They might also team up with other practitioners to conduct further tests, such as x rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or electromyography (EMG).

Can You Prevent Cervical Radiculopathy?

As we previously discussed, cervical radiculopathy is most commonly caused by repetitive movements.

Fortunately, this means that there are many steps you can take to help prevent experiencing cervical radiculopathy.

Let’s take a look at some of them.

Maintaining Proper Posture

Practicing proper posture is an important factor in the prevention of cervical radiculopathy and similar conditions.

It helps reduce unnecessary stress on your cervical spine.

Your physical therapist can recommend changes to your work chair to help promote proper posture.

Setting Up Your Workstation

Whether you work at home or in an office, it’s important to set up your work space in ways that minimize force on your spine.

This can include:

  • Using a hands free phone
  • Positioning your computer monitor in a way that doesn’t require you to stretch your neck
  • Setting up your desk and chair properly for your height

Speak to your physical therapist for more tips on how to set up your work station.


Not only does exercise help prevent cervical radiculopathy, but it can also help you maintain a healthy weight and overall health.

Your physical therapist can help you with an at home exercise regime aimed at increasing the flexibility of your spinal muscles, your range of motion, and strength in your neck, upper body, back, and core.

What Is Cervical Radiculopathy? | Capitol Physical Therapy Orthopedics And Pain Management Washington DC

How Can Physical Therapy For Cervical Radiculopathy Help?

Your physical therapist will use a variety of methods to help reduce your symptoms as well as restore general strength and function.

These include:

1. Pain Management

The first goal of physical therapy is the reduction of pain and inflammation.

Your physical therapist might use hot and cold therapy to help accomplish this.

Ice applied to your neck and shoulder blade within 24 to 48 hours of the pain starting can help minimize inflammation.

After 48 hours, moist heat can be applied to help your muscles relax and reduce pain.

Your physical therapist might also suggest a soft cervical collar for short periods throughout the day to give your muscles a break.

2. Range Of Motion Exercises

Your physical therapist will help you perform gentle mobility exercises in your neck to encourage range of movement.

These exercises are particularly helpful for those with desk jobs who experience neck stiffness due to too much sitting.

3. Strengthening Exercises

Physical therapists are skilled at determining which muscle groups require strengthening.

Your physical therapist will target specific areas and help encourage strength building as a method of symptom management.

You’ll start with gentle exercises which will gradually become more intense once you’ve recovered enough.

Your physical therapist will also provide you with at home exercises to help maintain the results you get during therapy.

4. Postural Retraining

Postural retraining is an extremely important part of helping your recover as well as prevents a reoccurring injury.

Your physical therapist can suggest changes to your workstation and home habits in order to promote good posture.

They can also help you learn how to safely bend, reach, and lift throughout the day.

5. Manual Therapy

Also referred to as “hands on therapy”, manual therapy techniques are helpful for pain management.

Your physical therapist might use techniques, such as manual cervical traction or gentle massage, to help your muscles relax and reduce tension.

Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy Today

Whether you’re dealing with pain from cervical radiculopathy or symptoms from another condition, we can help.

At Capitol Physical Therapy, our experienced physical therapists can help you get back to feeling your best.

Book your appointment with Capitol Physical Therapy today.

Capitol Physical Therapy
1331 H St NW #200,
Washington, DC 20005


9560 Pennsylvania Ave. # 202,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772


Capitol Physical Therapy offers orthopedic and other pain related solutions, with our versitile team of physical therapists in Washington, DC