Radiculopathy risk factors

Radiculopathy is a general term describing symptoms that travel along the length of a compressed nerve into different areas of the body. So, for example, nerve compression in the lower back can cause radiculopathic, or radiating, symptoms in the legs. Many of the underlying causes of these symptoms are age-related conditions that cannot be prevented, but understanding the controllable radiculopathy risk factors can have many benefits.

If you have already been diagnosed with radiculopathy, then knowing about these factors can help you and your doctor develop a treatment plan for symptom relief that can return you to the people and activities you’ve been missing. For patients who have not developed any of these symptoms, this knowledge can potentially help to slow the onset of symptoms even if they are not completely preventable.

Offsetting radiculopathy risk factors

Spinal nerve compression can be caused by many different conditions in the spine, such as herniated discs, bulging discs, bone spurs and spondylolisthesis. Although these conditions can be brought on by injury, illness, overuse, poor body mechanics and genetic factors, the most common cause is aging.

Although the aging process cannot be avoided, certain risk factors can make a difference in the rate of progression or onset of radiculopathy. Here are some specific lifestyle choices you can make to decrease your chances of developing radiating symptoms.

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Not smoking
  • Practicing proper posture and lifting techniques

If you are experiencing symptoms it is important to understand how the location of radiculopathy is influenced by the source of nerve compression. Here are the three regions of the spine and specific symptoms that issues there can cause:

  • Cervical (upper) spine — Pain, tingling or numbness that can radiate through the shoulders, arms and hands
  • Thoracic (middle) spine — Less common, but still possible to feel pain or weakness around the torso, arms, chest, kidneys and lungs
  • Lumbar (lower) spine — A very common site of traveling symptoms; can begin in the lower back and move through the buttocks, legs and toes

Treating radiculopathy

For many people who experience radiculopathic symptoms, meaningful relief can be found through a course of conservative treatment including rest, physical therapy and over-the-counter pain medication. Open spine surgery is usually considered when weeks or months of these and other methods don’t bring pain relief and a return to normal activities. However, many patients are reluctant to undergo traditional open spine surgery because of the risks and difficulties involved, including a long rehabilitation period and risk of failed back surgery syndrome.

Minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute is an alternative, offering an outpatient experience and a far shorter recovery time^ compared to traditional open spine surgery. Since 2005 we have helped more than 75,000 patients get their lives back from neck or back pain.

Contact us today for a no-cost review of your MRI* to see if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.