An educated guess about the location of a pinched nerve often can be made based on the location of symptoms, particularly the radiating pain that typically accompanies an impinged, or compressed, spinal nerve root. For example, when a nerve root is compressed at the level of the seventh cervical vertebra (C7), a patient will present with radiculopathy (radiating neural pain) in the neck, lower arm and along the medial border of the scapula. However, for patients with a pinched nerve at the C7 level, this might only scratch the surface of the potential debilitating symptoms.
What causes a pinched nerve at the C7 level?
The anatomical components of the cervical (neck) region of the spine are particularly vulnerable to degenerative conditions associated with the aging process. Think about the function of the seven cervical vertebrae – they support the weight of the skull, and they allow for a wide range of head and neck movement. As the body ages, the intervertebral discs and vertebral joints begin to deteriorate, and the result often is a herniated disc, a bulging disc or displacement of the vertebrae as the cartilaginous joints begin to lose their structural integrity. Generally, these conditions are asymptomatic. Only when these spinal abnormalities produce nerve impingement will symptoms such as radiating pain, localized pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness occur. In addition to a burning sensation along the scapula and the back of the arm, a pinched nerve at the C7 level might produce weakness or numbness in the middle finger, reduce the triceps reflex and make it difficult to straighten the elbow, flex the wrist or extend the fingers.
Treating a pinched nerve
The symptoms of C7 nerve compression normally can be managed using conservative treatments, such as pain medication, physical therapy, behavior modification and more. However, if debilitating pain and other symptoms persist after weeks or months of conservative treatment, surgery may become an option. If so, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn whether a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure performed using advanced technology can help you find meaningful relief from neck and back pain.