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Cervical Radiculopathy Medication

  • Author: Gerard A Malanga, MD; Chief Editor: Sherwin SW Ho, MD  more...
 
Updated: Oct 08, 2015
 

Medication Summary

NSAIDs are commonly prescribed for their effects on pain and inflammation. In cervical radiculopathy, much of the pain is secondary to inflammation of the nerve root, usually due to a mechanical irritation of the nerve. In general, 10-14 days of regular dosing of an NSAID is all that is needed to control the pain and inflammation in cervical radiculopathy.

Oral steroids have been used to reduce the associated inflammation from compression. No controlled study exists to support the use of oral steroids in the treatment of cervical radiculopathy; however, these agents have been found to be clinically useful. Doses as high as 60 mg daily for 7 days and continuing for 5 days have been used without evidence of adrenal suppression. Longer-term use is not recommended. Tricyclic antidepressants can be a useful adjunct in controlling radicular pain. Opioid medications are generally not necessary for pain relief, but these drugs can be used when other medications fail to provide adequate relief or if other agents are contraindicated. When opioid medications are prescribed, adequate doses and appropriate dosing schedules should be used.

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Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Class Summary

Various NSAIDs are available either over the counter or by prescription. Proper doses should be used in the acute phase around the clock for approximately 7-10 days.

Ibuprofen (Motrin, Ibuprin)

 

DOC for patients with mild to moderate pain. Inhibits inflammatory reactions and pain by decreasing prostaglandin synthesis.

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Tricyclic antidepressants

Class Summary

Tricyclic antidepressants are a complex group of drugs that have central and peripheral anticholinergic effects, as well as sedative effects. These agents have central effects on pain transmission and block the active reuptake of norepinephrine and serotonin.

Amitriptyline (Elavil)

 

By inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin and/or norepinephrine by the presynaptic neuronal membrane, may increase the synaptic concentration in the CNS. Useful as an analgesic for certain chronic and neuropathic pain.

Nortriptyline (Pamelor, Aventyl HCl)

 

Has demonstrated effectiveness in the treatment of chronic pain. By inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin and/or norepinephrine by presynaptic neuronal membrane, may increase synaptic concentration in the CNS.

Pharmacodynamic effects, such as the desensitization of adenylate cyclase and downregulation of beta-adrenergic receptors and serotonin receptors, also appear to play a role in its mechanisms of action.

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Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Gerard A Malanga, MD Founder and Partner, New Jersey Sports Medicine, LLC and New Jersey Regenerative Institute; Director of Research, Atlantic Health; Clinical Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School; Fellow, American College of Sports Medicine

Gerard A Malanga, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, North American Spine Society, International Spine Intervention Society, American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, American College of Sports Medicine

Disclosure: Received honoraria from Cephalon for speaking and teaching; Received honoraria from Endo for speaking and teaching; Received honoraria from Genzyme for speaking and teaching; Received honoraria from Prostakan for speaking and teaching; Received consulting fee from Pfizer for speaking and teaching.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Chief Editor

Sherwin SW Ho, MD Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, Section of Orthopedic Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Chicago Division of the Biological Sciences, The Pritzker School of Medicine

Sherwin SW Ho, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Arthroscopy Association of North America, Herodicus Society, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine

Disclosure: Received consulting fee from Biomet, Inc. for speaking and teaching; Received grant/research funds from Smith and Nephew for fellowship funding; Received grant/research funds from DJ Ortho for course funding; Received grant/research funds from Athletico Physical Therapy for course, research funding; Received royalty from Biomet, Inc. for consulting.

Additional Contributors

Janos P Ertl, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine; Chief of Orthopedic Surgery, Wishard Hospital; Chief, Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy, Indiana University School of Medicine

Janos P Ertl, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Orthopaedic Association, Hungarian Medical Association of America, Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Acknowledgements

Michael A Romello, MD Staff Physician, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Sagittal magnetic resonance image of the cervical spine. This image reveals a C6-C7 herniated nucleus pulposus.
Axial magnetic resonance image of the cervical spine. This image reveals a C6-C7 herniated nucleus pulposus.
 
 
 
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