What is the Cervical Compression Test?

The cervical compression test is a clinical examination technique employed by healthcare professionals, particularly in the field of orthopedics and neurology, to assess the integrity and function of the cervical spine. This diagnostic maneuver is designed to identify potential nerve root compression or irritation in the neck region.

During the cervical compression test, the patient typically sits or lies down in a comfortable position. The examiner then gently applies downward pressure on the patient's head, exerting a compressive force on the cervical spine. This foraminal compression test is directed vertically to reproduce or exacerbate any existing symptoms associated with nerve compression, such as pain, tingling, or numbness.

The rationale behind the test lies in its ability to elicit symptoms indicative of cervical nerve root impingement or irritation. The compression may reduce the space around the nerve roots as they exit the spinal cord, potentially causing compression of the nerves or aggravating existing compression. Commonly, the examiner asks the patient about any sensations or discomfort experienced during the test and any radiation of symptoms down the arms.

Positive findings during the cervical compression test may include reproducing radicular symptoms, pain, or other sensations that radiate along the nerve pathways. These symptoms can aid in localizing the potential site of nerve compression and contribute to a more accurate diagnosis of cervical spine pathology, such as disc herniation or foraminal stenosis.

It is important to note that the cervical compression test is just one component of a comprehensive clinical assessment, and its interpretation should be considered alongside other diagnostic tools, including medical history, imaging studies, and additional physical examinations. While the neck compression test is valuable in identifying cervical nerve root involvement, healthcare professionals use a combination of methods to formulate a holistic understanding of a patient's condition and guide appropriate treatment strategies.

Printable Cervical Compression Test

Download this Cervical Compression Test for healthcare professionals, particularly in the field of orthopedics and neurology, to assess the integrity and function of the cervical spine.

Disorders of the nerve roots, plexuses, and peripheral nerves

Disorders of nerve roots

  • Herniated disc: The intervertebral discs between spinal vertebrae may rupture or bulge, pressing on nerve roots and causing pain, numbness, or weakness.
  • Spinal stenosis: Narrowing of the spinal canal can compress nerve roots, leading to symptoms like pain, tingling, and muscle weakness.
  • Radiculopathy: Inflammation, compression, or injury to a nerve root, often resulting in pain, sensory changes, and muscle weakness along the affected nerve's pathway.

Disorders of plexuses

  • Thoracic outlet syndrome: Compression of nerves and blood vessels between the neck and shoulder, causing symptoms such as pain, numbness, and weakness in the upper extremities.
  • Brachial plexitis (neuralgic amyotrophy): Inflammatory condition affecting the brachial plexus, leading to sudden shoulder and arm pain and subsequent muscle weakness.
  • Femoral neuropathy: Dysfunction or damage to the femoral nerve, often causing weakness and sensory changes in the thigh.
  • Sciatic neuropathy: Compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve, resulting in pain, numbness, and weakness along the back of the leg.

Disorders of peripheral nerves

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: Compression of the median nerve at the wrist, causing symptoms like hand pain, tingling, and weakness.
  • Ulnar neuropathy: Compression or injury to the ulnar nerve, leading to symptoms such as tingling and weakness in the hand and fingers.
  • Peroneal nerve palsy: Dysfunction of the peroneal nerve, often causing foot drop and difficulty lifting the foot.
  • Median Nerve Entrapment: Entrapment of the median nerve in various locations, resulting in symptoms similar to carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Meralgia paresthetica: Compression of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, leading to numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in the outer thigh.

These disorders can have various causes, including trauma, repetitive motion, inflammation, and structural abnormalities. Diagnosis often involves a combination of clinical evaluation, imaging studies, and electrophysiological tests to determine the specific nerve involvement and guide appropriate treatment strategies. Treatment may range from conservative measures such as physical therapy and medications to more invasive interventions like surgery, depending on the severity and underlying cause of the disorder.

Examination and treatment of cervical spine disorders

Examination of cervical spine disorders

Patient history:

  • Obtain a detailed medical history, including the onset, duration, and characteristics of symptoms.
  • Inquire about any trauma, previous spinal surgeries, or relevant medical conditions and record these in a cervical compression test document, such as the one provided for free below!

Physical examination:

  • Posture and alignment: Evaluate the patient's cervical spine alignment and assess for any abnormal curvature.
  • Range of motion (ROM): Test active and passive cervical ROM, noting any restrictions or pain.
  • Neurological examination: Assess motor strength, sensory function, and reflexes in the upper extremities.
  • Palpation: Palpate the cervical spine for tenderness, muscle spasms, or swelling.

Special tests:

  • Spurling's test: Assess for cervical nerve root compression by extending, rotating, and laterally bending the neck.
  • Lhermitte's sign: Evaluate for cervical cord irritation by passively flexing the patient's neck.

Imaging studies:

  • X-rays: Provide detailed images of the bony structures, helping identify fractures, dislocations, or degenerative changes.
  • MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging): Offer detailed views of soft tissues, useful for detecting disc herniations, spinal stenosis, or cord compression.
  • CT (Computed tomography): Provide detailed images of bone structures and may be used to visualize fractures or bony abnormalities.

Treatment of cervical spine disorders

  • Physical therapy: Focus on exercises to improve posture, strengthen muscles, and enhance range of motion.
  • Pain management: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or muscle relaxants may be prescribed to alleviate pain and inflammation.
  • Heat and cold therapy: The application of heat or cold packs can help reduce pain and muscle spasms.
  • Analgesics: Over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers can be used for pain management.
  • Corticosteroids: Oral or injectable steroids may be prescribed for their anti-inflammatory effects in cases of acute inflammation.
  • Soft collars: Short-term use of soft cervical collars may provide support and restrict movement during the acute phase of injury.
  • Epidural steroid injections: For targeted delivery of anti-inflammatory medication to alleviate nerve root inflammation.
  • Facet joint injections: Address pain arising from the facet joints of the cervical spine.
  • Discectomy: Removal of a herniated disc that is compressing a nerve root.
  • Foraminotomy: Widening of the neural foramen to relieve pressure on nerve roots.
  • Spinal fusion: In cases of instability, fusion of vertebral segments may be performed.
  • Postoperative physical therapy: Essential for restoring strength, flexibility, and function after surgical procedures.
  • Home exercises: Prescribed to maintain spinal health and prevent recurrence.
  • Ergonomics: Emphasize proper posture and ergonomics, especially for those with desk jobs.
  • Weight management: Excess weight can contribute to cervical spine strain; weight management may be advised.

Treatment plans are tailored based on the specific diagnosis, severity of symptoms, and individual patient characteristics. A multidisciplinary approach involving orthopedic specialists, neurologists, and physical therapists is often beneficial in managing cervical spine disorders effectively.

How does this assessment work?

Step One: Gather your resources

Cervical Compression Tests are a valuable resource and essential to keep on hand. Make sure that you have a copy of the free printable PDF when the need arises by either clicking the “Download Template” or “Use Template” button or by searching “Cervical Compression Test” on Carepatron’s template library’s search bar on the website or app.

Step Two: Collate essential information

Once the patient has been diagnosed and assessed for nerve issues, utilizing the screening test template to ensure all goals of care are met is seamless and easily accessible to relevant parties via Carepatron's centralized workspace. Assessment, symptom management, and interventions can be collated within the single care plan and safely stored on a single database. The care plan allows for individualized treatment options. It acts as a scaffolding to ensure goals of care are met, and the next steps are recorded for future reference or distribution to other healthcare specialists who are part of the patient's care team. 

Step Three: Store the chart securely

After reviewing the diagnostic tests and creating a viable and individualized plan for the patient, you need to secure the plan so that access is only granted to relevant parties. Please note that this template acts as a guide and does not ensure diagnostic accuracy.

Ensure this through Carepatrons HIPAA-compliant free patient records software. Here, all relevant medical records can be safely stored and collated for ease and security.

Cervical Compression Test example (sample)

Eager to utilize this essential clinical tool? Acquire a free, downloadable, and printable Cervical Compression Test Template PDF with fictional data to help you confidently track your patient's needs or act as an educational tool. 

Our crafted sample template is designed to assist you in efficiently utilizing the chart and evaluating the goals of care for patients who are receiving a cervical compression test. It includes dedicated sections for evaluation, interventions, and symptom tracking. 

Secure your copy by either previewing the sample below or clicking the "Download Example PDF" button.

Download this free Cervical Compression Test example here

Cervical Compression Test example (sample)

Why use Carepatron as your physical therapy software?

In the ever-evolving realm of physical therapy, where precise and streamlined documentation holds paramount importance, Carepatron emerges as an invaluable resource. Carepatron establishes a centralized repository for all patient data through its online patient portal, significantly simplifying the documentation process.

Carepatron's platform surpasses mere documentation by incorporating customizable templates tailored to meet the distinctive requirements of each physical therapy practice. This guarantees the efficient and consistent capture of essential information, with user-friendly and intuitive templates facilitating therapists in maintaining thorough and accurate records.

Furthermore, Carepatron's seamless integration of a telehealth platform enhances the documentation process, enabling remote consultations and follow-ups. This feature is especially advantageous in today's healthcare landscape, emphasizing the significance of flexibility and accessibility.

Opting for Carepatron empowers physical therapists to enhance their practice, ensuring that their documentation is comprehensive, compliant, efficient, and centered around the needs of the patient. Embrace Carepatron for a more streamlined and effective documentation experience within your physical therapy practice.

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What is a cervical compression test, and why is it performed?
What is a cervical compression test, and why is it performed?

Commonly asked questions

What is a cervical compression test, and why is it performed?

A cervical compression test is a diagnostic maneuver performed by healthcare professionals to assess the integrity and potential compression of cervical nerve roots in the spinal cord.It is conducted to identify symptoms indicative of nerve root compression, such as pain, tingling, or numbness, helping to localize and diagnose conditions like disc herniation or foraminal stenosis.

How is a cervical compression test conducted, and what does a positive result indicate?

During the test, the patient typically sits or lies down, and the examiner applies gentle downward pressure on the patient's head, compressing the cervical spine. A positive test result is characterized by reproducing or exacerbating radicular symptoms, such as shooting pain or tingling down the arms. This suggests potential nerve root compression or irritation, guiding further diagnostic investigations and treatment planning.

What conditions or symptoms might prompt a healthcare provider to perform a cervical compression test?

Cervical compression tests are often conducted in patients presenting with symptoms suggestive of cervical spine pathology. These may include neck pain, radiating arm pain, weakness, or sensory changes in the upper extremities. The test is particularly relevant for assessing conditions like herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or nerve root impingement, aiding in the differential diagnosis of cervical spine disorders.

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