Radiculopathy symptoms

Medical professionals use the term radiculopathy to describe symptoms resulting from compression nerve roots, which are bundles of nerve tissue that branch off the spinal cord. Radiculopathy, therefore, is not a disorder in itself, but rather a collection of symptoms that include pain, muscle weakness, numbness and tingling that originate in the neck or back and travel to the extremities. Radiculopathy symptoms can take you away from the people and activities you love, affecting your job, family and even being able to get a good night’s sleep. Treatment that can get you back to the life you’ve been missing is possible, and learning more about the causes and treatments for radiculopathy symptoms can help you work with your doctor to develop an effective care plan.

The human spine is divided into five segments, with radiculopathy being most common in the lumbar (lower), cervical (upper) or thoracic (middle) spine. Thirty-one pairs of nerve roots branch off the long spinal cord within the narrow space of the spinal column. Many spinal conditions can cause narrowing (stenosis) o the nerve pathways which can put pressure on the nerve roots and lead to radiculopathy. These conditions include a bulging or herniated disc, arthritis, bone spurs, or in rarer cases, the presence of a tumor or infection.

Common symptoms of radiculopathy

Specific radiculopathy symptoms can vary widely, but the most common ones include:

  • Pain or discomfort ranging from dull and throbbing to sharp and exact
  • Sciatica
  • Traveling pain
  • The sensation of numbness and tingling in the extremities
  • Muscle weakness

Diagnosing radiculopathy requires a visit to a doctor to determine the origin of the discomfort. Following a physical examination and a review of the patient’s medical background, a medical imaging scan — such as an MRI or CT scan — may be scheduled to determine the location of the affected nerve root. Typically, radiculopathy treatments include a conservative plan of remedies such as stretching and heating pads and the use of over-the-counter or prescription medication.

In the event radiculopathy does not respond to conservative treatments after a period of weeks or months, surgery can become a serious treatment option.

If surgery becomes an option

At Laser Spine Institute, our board-certified surgeons+ perform minimally invasive spine surgery that can offer lasting relief from radiculopathy symptoms with a lower risk of complication compared to traditional open spine procedures.

Before you make any decision on spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute for a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a candidate for our outpatient minimally invasive spine surgery.