Radiculopathy is an irritation of the roots of the nerves in the spine, usually resulting in pain, numbness or weakness. Often referred to as a “pinched nerve”, radiculopathy symptoms vary depending on the location of the affected nerve. Symptoms from radiculopathy can range from mild to severe, and if it occurs in the leg, it can impair your ability to walk, travel or carry out simple day-to-day tasks.
Symptoms of Radiculopathy
The most common form of radiculopathy is lumbar radiculopathy, which affects the low back. It can cause pain, muscle weakness and/or numbness in the hip, buttock, or leg. Lumbar radiculopathy may cause a shooting pain through the leg called sciatica.
Cervical radiculopathy occurs in the neck and usually results in pain that radiates into the neck, arm, chest, shoulders and/or upper back. Cervical radiculopathy may also create weakness, numbness and/or tingling in the fingers or hands.
Thoracic radiculopathy is uncommon. When nerve roots in the upper back are irritated, it can result in symptoms that are often misdiagnosed, such as a burning or shooting pain in the ribs, side or abdomen.The pain may start in the middle back and wrap around to the chest.
What causes radiculopathy?
Because radiculopathy is pain associated with an irritated nerve root, it is usually a symptom of another problem. Common spine conditions that can result in radiculopathy include spinal and/or foraminal stenosis, disc herniation, bone spurs (osteophytes) and spondylolisthesis.
Treatment for radiculopathy
Pain, weakness and numbness associated with radiculopathy are very treatable. Treatment usually begins with conservative, non-surgical measures such as physical therapy, possibly in conjunction with medications to manage pain and reduce inflammation.
In moderate to severe cases, epidural injections can help to reduce inflammation and swelling around nerves, consequently relieving pain.