Differentiating Symptoms of C6 C7 C8 radiculopathy

Differentiating Symptoms of C6 C7 C8 radiculopathy

What are the differentiating signs and symptoms between a C6, C7, and C8 radiculopathy? 

C6, C7, and C8 are specific spinal nerve roots that exit the spinal cord in the neck region. Radiculopathy refers to the compression, irritation, or damage to one or more of these nerve roots, leading to specific symptoms. Here’s a general overview of the differentiating symptoms of C6, C7, and C8 radiculopathy:

C6 Radiculopathy:

  • Pain: Pain typically radiates from the neck down the arm and may extend to the thumb side of the hand or the index finger.
  • Weakness: Weakness may be present in the biceps muscles of the upper arm and wrist extensor muscles, resulting in difficulties with activities like lifting objects or performing gripping tasks.
  • Sensory changes: Numbness or tingling may occur along the shoulder, upper arm, forearm, thumb, and index finger.

C7 Radiculopathy:

  • Pain: Pain typically radiates from the neck down the arm and may extend to the middle finger.
  • Weakness: Weakness may be present in the triceps muscles at the back of the upper arm and the finger extensor muscles, leading to difficulties with activities such as straightening the arm or gripping objects.
  • Sensory changes: Numbness or tingling may occur along the back of the arm, forearm, and middle finger.

C8 Radiculopathy:

  • Pain: Pain typically radiates from the neck down the arm and may extend to the pinky finger side of the hand.
  • Weakness: Weakness may be present in the hand intrinsics, which are the muscles responsible for fine motor movements of the hand. This can result in difficulties with tasks requiring precise finger movements, such as buttoning a shirt or gripping small objects.
  • Sensory changes: Numbness or tingling may occur along the medial aspect of the forearm, hand, and pinky finger.

It’s important to note that these are general patterns of symptoms and may vary from person to person. Additionally, some individuals may experience a combination of symptoms from multiple nerve roots if there is involvement of adjacent nerve roots.

If you are experiencing any symptoms suggestive of radiculopathy, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a physician or a neurologist, for a proper evaluation, diagnosis, and appropriate management. They can perform a thorough examination and order additional tests if needed to determine the underlying cause and develop an individualized treatment plan.

Compression of the cervical roots typically occurs from either osteophyte or disc herniation.

Cervical radiculopathy is defined as arm pain, sensory and motor symptoms caused by irritation of a cervical nerve root.

The C6 and C7 roots are most commonly involved, and differentiating symptoms associated with each root has proven difficult.

The bicep and brachioradialis reflexes may be diminished.

Compression of the C7 nerve root results in radicular pain in the shoulder, chest, and forearm, as well as the index and middle fingers.

Weakness may occur in the triceps and flexor carpi radialis.

Paresthesias may occur in the index and middle fingers.

The triceps reflex is typically diminished.

Patients with a suspected C8 radiculopathy may have weakness involving the long finger extensors and flexors, including the flexor pollicis longus, flexor digitorum profundus, and extensor pollicis longus, thenar/ hypothenar muscles, and, to a lesser extent, the intrinsic hand muscles.

Cervical MRI allows accurate identification of nerve root compression and therefore makes it possible to explore symptom patterns that may differentiate C6 from C7 radiculopathy.

C8 nerve root compression causes a similar pattern of pain as C7 radiculopathies, but paresthesias may occur in the fourth and fifth fingers.

Compression of the C6 nerve root results in radicular pain involving the shoulder, upper arm, and lateral side of the forearm and thumb. Weakness may occur in the deltoids, biceps, and pronator teres.

Weakness may occur in the intrinsic muscles of the hand and finger extensors.

Paresthesias may be felt in the thumb and index fingers. DSM 5 diagnostic criteria for somatic symptom disorder.

Patients with a C8 radiculopathy typically present with pain radiating into digits 4 and 5, with paresthesia (numbness/ tingling) in the palmar and dorsal surface of both digits, and may present with lower cervical pain that may radiate into the medial arm and forearm.

Patterns of nerve root compression syndromes

Nerve rootPain patternWeaknessReflexes
C2Occipital, eyes
C3Neck, trapezius
C4Neck, trapezius
C5Shoulder, lateral UEDeltoid
C6Lateral forearm, first two digitsBicepsBiceps absent
C7Posterior forearm, third digitTricepsTriceps absent
C8Medical forearm, fourth and fifth digitFinger abduction, grip

C6 radiculopathy refers to the compression or irritation of the C6 spinal nerve root, which emerges from the spinal cord in the neck region (cervical spine). Radiculopathy occurs when there is pressure on the nerve root, leading to pain, weakness, and other symptoms along the pathway of the affected nerve.

Here are some key features and possible symptoms of C6 radiculopathy:

  1. Neck Pain: C6 radiculopathy often presents with pain in the neck region, typically on one side. The pain may be sharp, stabbing, or radiating down the arm.
  2. Shoulder and Arm Pain: The pain associated with C6 radiculopathy can radiate from the neck down the shoulder, along the upper arm, and potentially into the thumb and index finger. It may be described as a burning or electric shock-like sensation.
  3. Muscle Weakness: Weakness in the muscles controlled by the C6 nerve root may occur. This can result in difficulty with activities that require strength or coordination, such as lifting objects, grasping, or performing fine motor tasks with the thumb and index finger.
  4. Sensory Changes: Numbness, tingling, or altered sensation may be present in the shoulder, arm, thumb, and index finger. This is known as paresthesia and can be felt as a pins-and-needles sensation.
  5. Reflex Changes: Deep tendon reflexes, such as the biceps reflex, may be diminished or absent on the affected side.

C6 radiculopathy can arise from various causes, including disc herniation, degenerative changes in the cervical spine, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), trauma, or inflammatory conditions affecting the nerve roots.

The diagnosis of C6 radiculopathy involves a thorough clinical assessment by a healthcare professional, which may include a physical examination, review of symptoms, and potentially imaging studies such as an MRI or CT scan to evaluate the spinal structures.

Treatment for C6 radiculopathy aims to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and improve functional outcomes. It may include a combination of conservative approaches such as rest, physical therapy, pain medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and in some cases, corticosteroid injections. Surgery may be considered if symptoms are severe, persistent, or associated with neurological deficits.

C8 radiculopathy refers to the compression, irritation, or damage to the C8 nerve root in the spinal column. The nerve roots emerge from the spinal cord and form the peripheral nerves that control various functions and sensations in the upper limbs. In the case of C8 radiculopathy, the eighth cervical nerve root, which is located in the cervical (neck) region of the spine, is affected.

Common causes of C8 radiculopathy include:

  1. Herniated Disc: The gel-like material within a spinal disc may leak out and press on the C8 nerve root.
  2. Degenerative Disc Disease: Wear and tear of the spinal discs over time can lead to conditions such as spinal stenosis, where the space around the spinal cord narrows, putting pressure on the nerves.
  3. Trauma or Injury: A sudden injury or trauma to the cervical spine can result in nerve compression.
  4. Bone Spurs: Overgrowth of bone, known as bone spurs, can occur in the cervical spine and impinge on the nerves.
  5. Foraminal Stenosis: Narrowing of the passageways (foramina) through which nerves exit the spine can cause compression of the nerve roots.

Symptoms of C8 radiculopathy may include:

  • Pain: This can be felt along the path of the nerve, often radiating down the arm and into the hand and fingers.
  • Numbness or Tingling: Sensations of numbness or tingling may be experienced in the hand and fingers.
  • Weakness: Weakness in the muscles controlled by the affected nerve may occur, making it challenging to perform certain tasks.
  • Reflex Changes: Reflexes may be diminished or absent.

Treatment options for C8 radiculopathy depend on the underlying cause and the severity of symptoms. Conservative approaches may include rest, physical therapy, pain management, and anti-inflammatory medications. In more severe cases or when conservative measures fail, surgical intervention may be considered to alleviate pressure on the affected nerve.

If you suspect you have C8 radiculopathy or are experiencing symptoms suggestive of nerve compression, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and appropriate management.


Daffner SD, Wang JC: The pathophysiology and non-surgical treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis. Instr Course Lect 58:657-668, 2009.


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