Radiculopathy is an umbrella term used by medical professionals to describe the symptoms associated with a compressed or inflamed nerve root in the central nervous system. Symptoms can include back and neck pain that “travels” along the nerve root to other areas of the body, as well as muscle weakness, tingling, or numbness in the extremities. Radiculopathy can occur anywhere along the spine, but it is seen most often in the cervical (upper) and lumbar (lower) spine.
A common cause of radiculopathy is the presence of a herniated disc in the spine. Nestled in between the spinal vertebrae are soft cushions of joint cartilage that act as shock absorbers for the back and neck. These “discs” help give the spine its mobility, flexibility, and ability to carry weight. Occasionally, intervertebral discs can swell, shift, break apart, or even become herniated. As a result, disc material might come into contact with the neighboring nerve roots along the spine. It is this pressure and irritation that causes radiculopathy. Other causes of radiculopathy include pinched nerves, bone spurs, spinal stenosis, and foraminal stenosis.
The inflammation and compression of the nerve roots can result in chronic back and neck pain, as well as traveling pain along the nerve to locations in the body where that particular nerve root travels. This means radiculopathy pain is not limited to just the spine, but can reverberate across the rest of the body as well. Also, when a nerve root is impinged or compressed, it can interrupt nerve signals to the point that a patient experiences numbness, a “pins and needles” or burning sensation, and weakness in the extremities.
Treatment of these symptoms is contingent on the identification of the underlying causes of radiculopathy. As radiculopathy isn’t a condition in and of itself, a doctor must first diagnose the origin of the symptoms, be it a disc herniation, bone spur, foraminal stenosis, or arthritis. Typical radiculopathy treatments include:
- Physical therapy or bed rest
- Introduction of hot and cold packs
- Over-the-counter or prescription medication
- Different diet and exercise patterns
From time to time, radiculopathy cannot be addressed with these conservative treatments. In this instance, a physician may suggest a surgical alternative to alleviate the pain associated with radiculopathy. Fortunately, the prognosis for a person suffering from back and neck conditions is positive in most cases. Contact the experts at Laser Spine Institute (LSI) to learn about the exciting new procedures being completed to help bring pain relief. LSI is at the forefront of a number of minimally-invasive, outpatient procedures designed to help return patients to a life without back and neck pain.