Cervical Radiculopathy Follow-up

Updated: Oct 08, 2018
  • Author: Gerard A Malanga, MD; Chief Editor: Sherwin SW Ho, MD  more...
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Follow-up

Return to Play

Criteria for return to play are absence of pain, a full pain-free ROM, a negative Spurling test, and a normal neurologic examination. A neck roll should be properly fitted and used in athletes at risk for a repeat injury (eg, a middle linebacker in football).

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Complications

Complications include incomplete neurologic recovery, loss of full cervical ROM, and radiographic changes that indicate disc-space narrowing, persistent loss of normal cervical lordosis, and/or osteophyte formation.

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Prevention

Some injuries can be prevented by using good technique (eg, when tackling an opponent in football, breathing properly when swimming). Proper head positioning may also be of benefit by stretching the anterior muscles of the neck and chest (ie, the anterior scalenes, pectoralis muscles) and strengthening the scapular muscles. Neck strengthening, including some eccentric strengthening exercises, may be helpful in providing muscular control of the neck.

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Prognosis

The prognosis for patients with cervical radiculopathy is excellent, with proper treatment. Nonoperative treatment is effective in 80-90% of patients. Surgery is indicated when nonoperative treatment has failed. The time frame for this decision depends on the ability of the patient to progress through the various phases of rehabilitation (see Treatment, Acute Phase, Recovery Phase, and Maintenance Phase).

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Education

Proper sport technique is usually of great importance in the prevention and rehabilitation of many cervical radiculopathies. This includes a proper ball toss in tennis, a proper body turn in swimming, and proper head positioning when tackling in football.

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