A segmental, contra-lateral cervical lateral glide (CCLG) mobilization technique is effective for patients with cervical radiculopathy (CR). The CCLG technique induces median nerve sliding in healthy individuals, but this has not been assessed in patients with CR.
This study aimed to 1) assess longitudinal excursion of the median nerve in patients with CR and asymptomatic participants during a CCLG movement, 2) reassess nerve excursions following an intervention at a 3-month follow-up in patients with CR and 3) correlate changes in nerve excursions with changes in clinical signs and symptoms.
During a computer-controlled mechanically induced CCLG, executed by the Occiflex™, longitudinal median nerve excursion was assessed at the wrist and elbow with ultrasound imaging (T0) in 20 patients with CR and 20 matched controls. Patients were re-assessed at a 3-month follow-up (T1), following conservative treatment including neurodynamic mobilization.
There was a significant difference between patients and controls in the excursion of the median nerve at both the wrist (Mdn = 0.50 mm; IQR = 0.13–1.30; 2.10 mm (IQR = 1.42–2.80, p < 0.05)) and elbow (Mdn = 1.21 mm (IQR = 0.85–1.94); 3.49 mm (IQR = 2.45–4.24, p < 0.05)) respectively at T0. There was also a significant increase in median nerve excursion at both sites between T0 and T1 in those with CR (Mdn = 1.96, 2.63 respectively). Wilcoxon Signed-Ranks Test indicated median pre-test ranks (Mdn = 0.5, 1.21; Z = - 3.82, p < 0.01; Z = −3.78, p < 0.01 respectively) and median post-test ranks. There was a strong correlation between improvement in median nerve excursion at the elbow at T1 and improvement in pain intensity (r = 0.7, p < 0.001) and functional limitations (r = 0.6, p < 0.01).
Longitudinal median nerve excursion differs significantly between patients with CR and asymptomatic volunteers at baseline, but this difference is no longer present after 3 months of conservative physiotherapy management. Improvement in nerve excursion correlates with improvement in clinical signs and symptoms.