Radiculopathy defines a range of symptoms caused by a pinching of a nerve root in the spinal column. The spinal cord runs through a canal in the center of the vertebrae. Nerve roots split from the cord and travel between the vertebrae and into various areas of the body. When these nerve roots become damaged or pinched, the symptoms are called radiculopathy.
The pinched nerve can occur at different areas along the spine, including the cervical and lumbar areas.
Cervical radiculopathy occurs due to irritation of the spinal nerves in the neck. These nerve root injuries are commonly referred to as “pinched nerves,” and cause pain and numbness in the neck that radiates down the shoulder and into the arm.
Lumbar radiculopathy, commonly known as sciatica, is pain in the lower extremities that radiates from the lumbar spine (lower back). Pain is caused by compression at the roots of the spinal nerves, and generally causes discomfort in the lower back, hips, and thighs, and travels down the legs. Compression most often occurs when the cushioning material in the intervertebral discs puts pressure on the nerves, by either bulging out or extruding out through a tear in the disc membrane.
When a nerve root is compressed, it becomes inflamed, which can cause several uncomfortable symptoms, including:
Symptoms will depend on where the nerve root is being pinched. It is possible that no symptoms will be experienced, or that they will come through periodic flare-ups.
A fracture, tumor, or infection can also cause radiculopathy, but these causes are much less common.
A wide range of treatment options are available for radiculopathy. Nonsurgical treatments are usually recommended first and include:
When conservative treatments don’t keep the symptoms at bay, surgical options are available. Surgery is used to reduce the pressure on the nerve root by widening the space where nerve roots exit the spine. Common surgical options for radiculopathy are:
Radiculopathy symptoms don’t have to slow you down. For more information about radiculopathy or to schedule an appointment with one of our expert neurosurgeons, contact us today.