How Long does it take to Heal from Cervical Radiculopathy?

cervical radiculopathy healing time

You have been diagnosed or suspect a cervical radiculopathy and wonder how long does this problem in the neck and arm usually take to heal? Does cervical radiculopathy really go away? Can cervical radiculopathy last for years?

What is the cause of it? Can you continue to exercise or have to take time off work?

I answer some of the most frequently asked questions by my patients and internet users about the duration of cervical radiculopathy, and other related questions. As usual, I base my answers on:

  • my experience as a physiotherapist since 2009;
  • my in-depth research and reading in the international scientific literature (all sources at the end of the article).

💬 Do you still have questions that I haven’t answered? Leave them in the comments, and I will be happy to respond!

Last update: May 2023
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If you would like more information about this rehabilitation period, I have dedicated an eBook to this topic 🙂!

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  • What are the different names and symptoms of cervical radiculopathy?
    • Definition of cervical radiculopathy
    • Names for cervical radiculopathy
    • Symptoms of cervical radiculopathy
    • Link between cervical arthritis and cervical radiculopathy
    • Can cancer cause pinched nerve in neck?
  • What causes cervical radiculopathy?
  • How long does cervical radiculopathy last?
  • Can I still workout and exercise with cervical radiculopathy?
  • What makes cervical radiculopathy worse?
  • What is the disability rating for cervical spine radiculopathy?
Here’s a video of me summarizing this article. However, it’s in French! You can display English subtitles by clicking on the gear icon (Subtitles>Auto-translate>English) 🙂

What are the different names and symptoms of cervical radiculopathy?

Let’s first make sure we are talking about the same thing!

Definition of cervical radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy can be defined in two ways:

  • based on the anatomical structures likely responsible for the symptoms and the type of lesion;
  • based on the symptoms.

Cervical radiculopathy is probably related to a lesion, irritation, compression, or inflammation of the nerve roots originating from the cervical vertebrae.

In everyday language, we sometimes speak of “pinched vertebrae in neck”. That’s not entirely correct anatomically.

We will see later the symptoms of cervical radiculopathy, which can also be used to define it.

Names for cervical radiculopathy

The cervical radiculopathy is called by different names. However, all these terms refer to the same thing:

  • arm sciatica,
  • cervical disc herniation,
  • cervical radiculitis,
  • pinched nerve in neck,
  • cervical radiculopathy.

Sometimes, it is referred to as C2-C3, C4, C5, C6, C7, or C8 radiculopathy (or a combination of these letters and numbers). This specifies the cervical nerve root that is believed to be responsible.

However, this does not matter much: it does not have a particular impact on the general principles of managing cervical radiculopathy.

💡 You may have only recently learned about cervical radiculopathy since being diagnosed, and the term may be a little scary. However, please know that it is a well-known problem in most healthcare professions. And it is a relatively “benign” problem (although it can still be very bothersome and debilitating at times).

Lumbar radiculopathy (sciatica) also exists.

Symptoms of cervical radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy is often defined solely in terms of the symptoms experienced. It is a pain that radiates into the arm (sometimes only in the shoulder, sometimes all the way down to the hand or fingertips).

Here are the different symptoms that may be felt in addition to pain or discomfort:

  • Tingling, numbness (paresthesia);
  • Loss of feeling / sensitivity (hypoesthesia);
  • Dizziness.

These symptoms can be felt on one side (left or right) or both sides of the upper limbs (= bilateral).

It can sometimes be confused with a tendinopathy (tendinitis) or carpal tunnel syndrome.

The diagnosis is made by:

  • Your general practitioner, most often;
  • Your physiotherapist;
  • More rarely, a rheumatologist or sports doctor.

These professionals make the diagnosis by asking you questions, examining you, and performing certain manual tests, sometimes called neurodynamic tests.

Additional tests (X-ray, CT-scan, MRI) are rarely useful, except to rule out other pathologies according to your symptoms. (Thoomes 2018)

Link between cervical arthritis and cervical radiculopathy

There is often a link between cervical arthritis and cervical radiculopathy.

Arthritis is one of the 2 most frequent causes of cervical radiculopathy, especially in people over 40/50 years old or more. (Source: Physiopedia)

Can cancer cause pinched nerve in neck?

Some people are very worried when they have cervical radiculopathy. They think it may be a sign of cancer, sometimes due to the significant pain or loss of strength.

In fact, as soon as we have a pathology that worries us, our brain makes an analogy with cancer. And research conducted on the internet often doesn’t help matters!

However, cervical radiculopathy does not increase the risk of cancer at all. There is no link between cervical radiculopathy and cancer.

The symptoms associated with cervical radiculopathy are not sufficient to suggest cancer!

cervical radiculopathy recovery time

What causes cervical radiculopathy?

The cervical radiculopathy often occurs between 40 and 50 years of age, slightly more often in females. It is related to irritation of the nerve fibers in the neck, irritation caused by:

  • spondylosis, wear and tear of the bones, cartilage, and other tissues (in older individuals), related to arthritis;
  • disc herniation (in younger individuals).

Source: Physiopedia

Smoking is a risk factor for cervical radiculopathy. Other risk factors have been suggested, but their link is less certain:

  • frequently lifting heavy objects;
  • frequently diving off a surfboard or other platform;
  • playing golf;
  • driving vibrating devices.

Source: Iyer 2016

Many people wonder if stress, a psychological cause, or depression can cause cervical radiculopathy. No link has been established on this subject in the international scientific literature.

Of course, stress or a “psychological cause” can increase pain. But it is not a specific cause. In any case, not a single cause. This is reassuring, I find!

The same goes for computer work, which can, however, become more difficult in case of cervical radiculopathy.

cervical radiculitis (pinched nerve in neck): how long does it last

How long does cervical radiculopathy last?

Here is the “average” recovery time of cervical radiculopathy to answer the question “how long does cervical radiculopathy last?”

If you are one of those people who wonder if cervical radiculopathy can be recurrent or intermittent, this information should enlighten you. Just as if you were wondering if it could be getting worse!

Keep in mind that this is the average healing time of people included in studies. This means that:

  • the time frame may be longer than in reality (because people who recover quickly do not seek medical attention);
  • it may get better much faster, as you may be one of those on the fast end of the curve who recovers more quickly!

At the beginning, the pain is intense, and the negative impact on your activities is moderate.

Four to six months after the onset of symptoms, you will feel considerably better.

In 83% of people, complete healing occurs 2-3 years after the onset of symptoms.

So, yes, maybe you are one of the people who has had cervical radiculopathy for 6 months at the time you are reading this article. Rest assured, it can still go away!

Even when the evolution is long, there are no sequelae.

(Wong 2014)

Gaussian curve to explain the average healing time after cervical radiculopathy
Gaussian curve to explain the average healing time after cervical radiculopathy This curve shows that not everyone evolves in the same way. In the middle at the top, it is the average evolution described in the article. But there are people on the left who recover much more quickly, and you may be one of them (let’s be optimistic!). Image: Wikimedia

Again, this scenario is one of the “worst” possible. We have many examples of people who recover much more quickly than this.

Not thanks to a miracle treatment, but simply because the evolution is fluctuating according to many parameters, which are difficult to clarify. This is what we will see now!

Also note that these evolution figures come with good news: whatever you do, you will get better with time. Even if you don’t change anything in your daily life.

Good news! Some studies including a larger population are more optimistic and report that over 85% of acute cervical radiculopathy disappear without specific treatment within 8 to 12 weeks (Magnus 2022).

How long does cervical radiculopathy last before being completely healed? 83% of people have no symptoms 2-3 years maximum after the onset of symptoms. Some studies are even more optimistic and report that the duration of cervical radiculopathy is a maximum of 8-12 weeks in 85% of people.

Can I still workout and exercise with cervical radiculopathy?

Some people wonder if they can workout or work with cervical radiculopathy.

The answer is yes!

Of course, it will depend on the type of work and exercise you do, and whether your symptoms and pain increase during and after.

If you don’t have more pain while working or exercise than when you’re at home, then it’s probably better for you to continue working.

In fact, staying active is the best natural treatment we know! (Our ancestors didn’t know chronic pain, by the way.)

If the pain is slightly increased but quickly decreases, it can also be more interesting to continue your professional and leisure activities.

If the pain is unbearable and systematically increased while working and exercise, adapting your rhythm is the option to consider to continue working or exercise.

Some people continue to work and exercice with cervical radiculopathy, and it can be beneficial.

What makes cervical radiculopathy worse?

You may have already heard that cervical radiculopathy can be worsened by certain factors or activities that put extra pressure on the affected nerve roots: poor posture, repetitive movements, heavy lifting, stress, poor sleeping habits, etc.

This is consistent in theory. And so, that you’re trying to limit these things is theoretically consistent.

But in practice, it’s more complicated than that.

Like most people, you would probably like to eliminate stress from your life, or not have to carry heavy things too often…

But if you don’t, it’s probably because your professional or private life doesn’t allow it.

What to do then? You can try to identify the factors that make you feel that way:

  • Increase your symptoms the most;
  • are the easiest to modify.

If this is really impossible, remember that cervical neuropathy evolves towards the better over the months, even in people who do not particularly adapt their lifestyle!

What is the disability rating for cervical spine radiculopathy?

Yes, the same reasoning applies to sick leave or disability recognition: it is not the illness that determines whether someone can be disabled or recognized as a disabled worker, but rather its consequences on personal and professional life.

Cervical brachial neuralgia is a type of musculoskeletal disorder (MSD), and some people are disabled due to these disorders. This is the case when the NCB has been evolving for years, most possible therapeutic options have been explored, and functional impairment is significant, including for simple daily activities such as eating, dressing, driving, etc.

This remains very rare.

Sometimes, disability or recognition as a disabled worker can occur due to cervical brachial neuralgia.

What is the disability rate for cervical brachial neuralgia? The disability rate is not calculated based on the disease or health problem, but rather on the consequences of the disease on everyday life.

This is why there is no typical disability rate for a person with cervical brachial neuralgia:

  • Some people will never be disabled or even on sick leave due to their cervical brachial neuralgia;
  • Others will be disabled at 30% (1st category);
  • Others at 50% or even more, often because cervical brachial neuralgia is associated with other problems.

However, a disability rate due to cervical brachial neuralgia remains rare. And a high disability rate is even rarer.


Cervical radiculopathy go away. But it can last for years. There is no miracle cure that can accelerate the healing of a cervical radiculopathy. But there are different ways to relieve the pain.


Here’s what I wanted to tell you about this! I wish you a very good recovery! Do you have any comments or questions? Your comments are welcome 🙂 !

If you feel the need to learn more about the recovery period after cervical radiculopathy, I wrote this guide in eBook format:

ebook about physical therapy

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I have searched for the most recent and relevant studies in the largest health study database, Medline (Pubmed). There are more than 800 studies published on cervical / cervicobrachial radiculopathy.

cervical radiculopathy studies on Medline/Pubmed
Studies indexed in Medline on NCB

Here are the studies I relied on to write this article.


Wong JJ, Côté P, Quesnele JJ, Stern PJ, Mior SA. The course and prognostic factors of symptomatic cervical disc herniation with radiculopathy: a systematic review of the literature. Spine J. 2014 Aug 1;14(8):1781-9. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2014.02.032. Epub 2014 Mar 12. PMID: 24614255.

Sleijser-Koehorst MLS, Coppieters MW, Heymans MW, Rooker S, Verhagen AP, Scholten-Peeters GGM. Clinical course and prognostic models for the conservative management of cervical radiculopathy: a prospective cohort study. Eur Spine J. 2018 Nov;27(11):2710-2719. doi: 10.1007/s00586-018-5777-8. Epub 2018 Oct 16. PMID: 30327908.

Thoomes EJ, Scholten-Peeters W, Koes B, Falla D, Verhagen AP. The effectiveness of conservative treatment for patients with cervical radiculopathy: a systematic review. Clin J Pain. 2013 Dec;29(12):1073-86. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31828441fb. PMID: 23446070.

Magnus W, Viswanath O, Viswanathan VK, et al. Cervical Radiculopathy. [Updated 2022 Jul 18]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. 


Thoomes EJ, van Geest S, van der Windt DA, Falla D, Verhagen AP, Koes BW, Thoomes-de Graaf M, Kuijper B, Scholten-Peeters WGM, Vleggeert-Lankamp CL. Value of physical tests in diagnosing cervical radiculopathy: a systematic review. Spine J. 2018 Jan;18(1):179-189. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2017.08.241. Epub 2017 Aug 31. PMID: 28838857.


Huang YH, Hong CZ, Wu WT, Li KT, Chou LW. Brain meningioma with initial manifestation similar to cervical radiculopathy: a case report. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2014 Jun 25;10:1175-81. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S64192. PMID: 25028552; PMCID: PMC4077786.

Causes, epidemiology

Article de Physiopedia

Iyer S, Kim HJ. Cervical radiculopathy. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2016 Sep;9(3):272-80. doi: 10.1007/s12178-016-9349-4. PMID: 27250042; PMCID: PMC4958381.

photo de nelly darbois, kinésithérapeute et rédactrice web santé

Written by Nelly Darbois

I love to write articles that are based on my experience as a physical therapist and extensive research in the international scientific literature.

I live in the French Alps 🌞❄️ where I work as scientific editor for my own website, where you are.

One thought on “How Long does it take to Heal from Cervical Radiculopathy?

  1. Thank you for providing such an informative and well-written blog post. The information you presented was supported by research and data, and I appreciated the practical applications and actionable steps you outlined.

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