The Annals of Vertebral Subluxation Research published a case study on January 4, 2018, documenting the improvement in neck pain and arm pain in an elderly patient undergoing chiropractic care. The term used in this study for this condition is radiculopathy.
The word radiculopathy comes from two Greek and Latin words meaning root, and illness. In this usage, it means a pain that originates at a nerve root and runs away from that origin, typically down an arm or leg. Cervical radiculopathy means that the problem has its origin in the neck. According to WebMD, “Cervical radiculopathy is the damage or disturbance of nerve function that results if one of the nerve roots near the cervical vertebrae is compressed. Damage to nerve roots in the cervical area can cause pain and the loss of sensation along the nerve’s pathway into the arm and hand, depending on where the damaged roots are located.”
The researchers in this study note that, “In younger people cervical radiculopathy is often caused by a disc herniation or some form of trauma which directly impacts on the nerve in the intervertebral foramina (IVF).” The IVFs are the openings between each vertebra where the nerves exit from the spinal column. They report that in older patients, pressure on nerves at the IVF typically occurs from degenerative or arthritic changes with a narrowing of the IVF known as stenosis.
In this case, a 74-year-old woman suffering from the symptoms of cervical radiculopathy presented herself for chiropractic care at a teaching clinic in New Zealand. Her symptoms included pain for several years, with numbness and tingling down her left arm that had gotten worse in the last few weeks. She was also complaining of weakness in her left arm and the inability to grasp heavy objects with her left hand.
One year prior to her chiropractic visit, her MD took neck x-rays which showed calcium buildup and disc degeneration in her neck. At that time, she did not consider her symptoms to be affecting her daily life so no care was rendered.
A chiropractic examination was performed, and it was noted that her cervical range of motion was limited in all directions. Neck rotation did cause an increase in pain and numbness in her left arm and hand. She also exhibited a decrease in the ability to feel sensations along portions of her left arm. Her finger grip strength on her left side was significantly reduced.
The findings were consistent with the presence of vertebral subluxation, and specific chiropractic adjustments were started at the rate of twice per week. By the 11th visit, the woman started noticing a decrease in the frequency of episodes of pain and numbness in her left arm. She reported that her problems were no longer present 24 hours per day and was only exacerbated during lifting her arm for long periods. She also reported an improvement in the quality of her sleep. A progress examination was performed, which included neurological testing, which showed further improvement in sensory ability of the C6 and C7 dermatomes on her left arm.
In their conclusion, the authors wrote, “Cervical foraminal stenosis causing radiculopathy is a problem that affects a large portion of the older population. This case study, and previously reported research, suggests that chiropractic care may benefit some people suffering from radiculopathy.”