Radiculopathy — overview

Radiculopathy is a term used by medical professionals to describe the symptoms associated with a compressed nerve root in the spine. Symptoms include neck and back pain that travels along the nerve 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 is seen most often in the cervical (upper) and lumbar (lower) spine.

Common causes of radiculopathy include conditions like herniated discs and arthritic bone spurs that narrow the nerve passageways in the spine. These conditions can be caused by injury or the natural aging process, which causes the joints and discs in the spine to lose hydration and wear down. Patients affected by radiculopathy can have every part of their life impacted, including work, relationships, hobbies and even the ability to get a good night’s sleep.

Treatment for radiculopathy

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 extends. This means radiculopathy pain is not limited to just the spine but can affect the rest of the body as well. This disruption of nerve signals can also cause numbness, tingling and weakness in parts of the body where the nerve travels. For example, radiculopathy originating in the lumbar spine can cause these symptoms in the buttocks, hips, legs and the feet. While radiculopathy in the cervical spine affects the neck, shoulders and arms.

Treatment of these symptoms depends on finding the underlying cause of radiculopathy. Since radiculopathy is always caused by another issue, a doctor must first diagnose the origin of the symptoms. Upon diagnosis, most doctors will first prescribe a course of conservative radiculopathy treatments, which can include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Periods of rest
  • Alternating hot and cold compresses
  • Over-the-counter or prescription medication
  • Lifestyle changes like diet and exercise
  • Epidural steroid injection

Many patients are able to find lasting relief by following these and other conservative treatments without having to resort to surgery.

When to consider surgery

In some cases, radiculopathy can continue to be debilitating, even after weeks and months of conservative treatment. At this point, surgery can start to become a serious consideration for many patients despite the risks and difficulties that can come with traditional open spine procedures. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer an alternative with minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery. By using a less than 1-inch incision and other muscle-sparing techniques, our patients experience a shorter recovery time^ and less risk of complication compared to traditional open spine surgery.

Contact Laser Spine Institute today for a no-cost MRI review* that can determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.