What is spine radiculopathy?

Spine radiculopathy is a term for radiating symptoms that travel from the spine to other parts of the body. These symptoms are usually caused by nerve compression from a degenerative spine condition like arthritis or bulging discs. Specific symptoms include pain, numbness, tingling or muscle weakness experienced in either the upper or lower body depending on the location of the pinched nerve.

In addition to pain and discomfort, spine radiculopathy can also cause limited mobility that can interfere with your family time, work and even basic activities like grocery shopping or working in the yard. Meaningful treatment that can return you to a better quality of normal activity is possible; many patients find success through a physician-prescribed course of conservative treatment.

Causes of spine radiculopathy

Spine radiculopathy originating in the cervical, or upper, spine — known as cervical radiculopathy — can cause symptoms in the shoulders, arms, hands and other parts of the upper body. The lumbar spine, which supports much of the upper body’s weight, is also a common site of origin for radiculopathy. Lumbar radiculopathy includes symptoms of sciatica, which results from compression of the large sciatic nerve. These symptoms are felt in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet.

The spinal nerve compression that leads to radiculopathy is usually caused by degenerative spine conditions related to aging, but can also be brought on by traumatic injury. Some of these conditions include:

  • Herniated disc — When a tear develops in the lining of a spinal disc, pushing disc material into the spinal canal
  • Degenerative disc disease — Natural disc degeneration that occurs with age
  • Arthritis of the spine — When lining of spinal facet joints wear away, causing inflammation and the potential for bone spurs
  • Spondylolisthesis — Vertebral slippage
  • Bulging disc — A protrusion of disc material into the spinal canal
  • Spinal stenosis and foraminal stenosis — Types of spinal column narrowing that interfere with nerves
  • Spinal injury — Compression fractures or other spinal trauma

While the natural aging process is unavoidable, lifestyle factors such as posture, weight management and tobacco use can contribute to the onset of these conditions.

Treatment options

If spine radiculopathy symptoms prove unmanageable despite weeks or months of conservative treatment such as physical therapy or epidural steroid injections, then physicians will usually start to consider surgery. However, traditional open spine surgery often involves many drawbacks, including an overnight hospital stay, a long recovery period and significant scarring.

Minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute is an alternative to traditional open back procedures, offering an outpatient experience and a shorter recovery period.^ Contact our Care Team for your no-cost MRI review* to see if you’re a potential candidate for one of our procedures.