January 25th, 2019 , PM&R

Inciting Events Associated With Cervical Radiculopathy (Abstract)

Authors: Rainville J, Caparo M, Laxer E, Pena E, Kim DH, Milam RA, Carkner E


Cervical radiculopathy (CR) is a clinical diagnosis defined as a combination of neck, shoulder, and arm pain, often accompanied by sensory and motor symptoms. CR is often caused by degenerative spine pathology associated with impingement of a cervical nerve root, and this pathology can be visualized using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT). [Correction added September 4, 2019, after online publication: ‘computer tomography’ corrected to ‘computed tomography’] Factors that are associated with the onset of CR have not been explored.


To investigate the types and frequencies of patient-reported inciting events associated with CR in patients with imaged-confirmed pathologies that correlate with symptoms.


Prospective observational case series.


Two spine physiatry and three orthopedic spine surgery practices.


One hundred twenty-two patients with symptoms suggestive of CR were recruited. Of these, 107 patients had MRI or CT evidence of cervical disk herniation or foraminal stenosis that correlated with symptoms and matched our inclusion criteria.


We categorized patient-reported inciting events associated with onset of CR into six categories reflecting increasing severity of inciting event, and recorded the clinical characteristics, physical examination findings, pain intensity, and disability. We analyzed the characteristics of patients based on subgroups of inciting events.


Two-thirds of patients reported that they either awoke with symptoms or symptoms began without a memorable event, and one-third of patients reported inciting physical activity or trauma associated with the onset of CR. Clinical characteristics of CR were not influenced by categories of inciting events.


Most CR with correlating spine pathology was found to have onset without a specific inciting events. Furthermore, physicalinciting events did not influence the severity of clinical manifestation of CR.

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