OBJECTIVE: To present a case of cervical radiculopathy, caused by an MRI documented herniated cervical disc, which was treated with conservative care including chiropractic manipulative therapy.
CLINICAL FEATURES: A 60-yr-old woman was treated by a chiropractor for symptoms including a deep, constant, burning ache in the left arm, and severe neck and left shoulder pain. A diagnosis of acute herniated cervical disc was made based on the findings of physical examination and an MRI study of the patient's cervical spine. Important orthopedic findings included exacerbation of the radicular symptomatology with the performance of Valsalva's and cervical compression tests. Neurologic findings included absent biceps and hyporeflexive triceps reflexes on the left, as well as C6 sensory deficit and C7 and C8 sensory hypesthesia. The primary finding on the MRI scan was posterior and lateral herniation on the C6-7 disc.
INTERVENTION AND OUTCOME: Treatment included chiropractic manipulative therapy, longitudinal cervical traction and interferential therapy. The patient began a regular schedule of treatments, which started on a daily basis but were gradually reduced as the patient progressed. By the third week of treatment, neck and shoulder pain was completely resolved. Subjective evaluation indicated the radicular pain to be improved by 60% within 6 wk. The patient's pain, numbness and grip strength returned to normal within 5 months.
CONCLUSION: Conservative treatment including chiropractic manipulative therapy seems to be a reasonable alternative to surgery, for cervical radiculopathy caused by a herniated cervical disc. Clinical trials should be performed to evaluate long term success rate, risk of permanent disability, rate of recovery and cost effectiveness of this and other forms of treatment for cervical radiculopathy caused by herniated nucleus pulposus.
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