Cervical radiculopathy is a condition where one or more of the nerves near the cervical vertebrae in the spine become compressed, resulting in damage and reduced function. People suffering from this condition experience pain and numbness in the shoulders, shoulder blades, neck, upper chest, arms, and they sometimes have poor control over hands and finger movements. This condition is commonly treated using a combination of pain medication and muscle relaxants, but here are three non-drug alternatives to try if you want to avoid using prescription drugs.
Spinal Manipulative Therapy
Spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) is a combination of chiropractic techniques coupled with massage and physical therapy that aims to alleviate pain, improve range of motion, and reduce inflammation. It's primarily performed by a chiropractor, but patients may be referred to other healthcare providers, such as a physiatrist, for complementary treatments.
Studies indicate spinal manipulative therapy can be an effective non-drug treatment for cervical radiculopathy. In trials involving 502 patients, the outcome of SMT appeared to provide better immediate results. However, it's critical that you work with an experienced medical practitioner, as a rare but possible complication of this treatment is cervical artery dissection and stroke as a result of improper manipulation of the spine in this area.
The number of treatments required will depend on the exact cause and severity of your condition. Only a few sessions may be needed if the damage to the nerve is mild or temporary, but lifelong treatment may be required in cases where the nerve has been severely harmed.
One thing that may contribute to the development of cervical radiculopathy is poor posture. When the spine is out of alignment, it can put pressure on the nerves in unhealthy ways. This is particularly true in today's tech-obsessed society where people frequently hunch over to look at smartphone and tablet screens. Making an effort to maintain good posture can alleviate the pressure on neck and spine and prevent the problem from worsening.
You can use a variety of online resources to learn about the proper way to sit, stand, and lie down to keep your spin in alignment. For instance, the best way to sit is with your back straight and something pressed against the lower back (e.g. towel or pillow) to provide lumbar support. Another example is the side and the back are the best positions for preventing neck pain, whereas sleeping on your stomach can throw your spine into an unnatural position.
However, it may be best to work with a physical therapist if your condition is moderate to severe. The physical therapist can demonstrate the optimal posture for your condition to maximize safety. However, some will also come to your home and office to optimize your work areas to promote good back health. For example, part of your cervical pain may come from looking at a monitor that's sitting too low. Adjusting the monitor's height can promote good posture and relieve some of the strain on your back.
A third non-drug treatment option for cervical radiculopathy is exercises to strengthen the neck, shoulders, arms, and upper back. Making these areas stronger can help provide stability to the neck area, promote good posture, and reduce pain and strain.
If it's been awhile since you've done any type of exercise, you may want to start out slow with neck stretches, such as gently tilting your head forward, side-to-side, and backward for a few minutes each day and then advance to strength training exercises such as chin tucks as the pain and stiffness improves.
Yoga and Pilates, both of which focus on strengthening core muscles and improving posture, can also help you manage cervical radiculopathy. However, check in with your doctor first to ensure it's safe for you to participate in these exercise programs. Some positions, such as the Halasana yoga pose, may exacerbate rather than alleviate your condition.
To learn about other things you can do to treat cervical radiculopathy without prescription drugs, connect to a chiropractor, such as those at Rockwood Chiropractic, or healthcare provider in your area.