A cross-sectional cadaveric examination of displacement and strain measured at the level of the cervical nerve roots during upper limb neural tension testing (ULNTT) with median nerve bias.
To determine the displacement and strain of cervical nerve roots C5–C8 during ULNTT with minimal disruption of surrounding tissues.
Summary of Background Data.
Clinical examination of neural pathology involving cervical nerve roots is difficult because of the transient nature of pathologies, such as cervical radiculopathy, entrapment neuropathies, and thoracic outlet syndrome. Cadaveric studies have demonstrated significant displacement and strain in lumbosacral nerve roots during neurodynamic testing of the lower extremity. Examination into the biomechanical behaviors of cervical nerve roots during ULNTT has not been performed.
Eleven unembalmed cadavers were positioned supine as though undergoing ULNTT. Radiolucent markers were implanted into cervical nerve roots C5–C8. Posteroanterior fluoroscopic images were captured at resting and ULNTT positioning. Images were digitized and displacement and strain were calculated.
ULNTT resulted in significant inferolateral displacement (average, 2.16 mm–4.32 mm, P < 0.001) of cervical nerve roots C5–C8. There was a significant difference in inferolateral displacement between the C5 and C6 nerve roots (3.15 mm vs. 4.32 mm, P = 0.009). ULNTT resulted in significant strain (average, 6.80%–11.87%, P < 0.001) of cervical nerve roots C5–C8. There was a significant difference in strain between the C5 and C6 nerve roots (6.60% vs. 11.87%, P = 0.03).
ULNTT caused significant inferolateral displacement and strain in cervical nerve roots C5–C8. These results provide the mechanical foundation for the use of ULNTT in clinical evaluation of pathology in the cervical region, such as in cervical radiculopathy, entrapment neuropathies, and thoracic outlet syndrome.
Level of Evidence: 2