Muscle weakness is a symptom of radiculopathy

Unexplained muscle weakness — particularly when localized to a specific muscle or muscle set — is often a symptom of an underlying nerve problem in the neck or back. Unlike weakness caused by fatigue or strain, sudden or unexplained muscle dysfunction is more likely caused by a compressed, constricted or pinched nerve than a problem with the muscle itself. The resulting symptoms of spinal nerve root compression, including muscle weakness, pain, numbness and tingling, are known as radiculopathy.

For normal function, muscle tissue is in constant communication with the brain via nerve fibers that run down the spinal cord, branch off into nerve roots and extend throughout the body. When these nerves are interfered with, connections between the brain and the muscles can be affected, leading to muscle weakness, atrophy or even paralysis — with symptoms depending on the location and severity of the impacted nerve.

Radiculopathy and muscle weakness

The specific underlying cause of radiculopathic muscle weakness is usually a spine condition resulting from either aging or injury. The spine is intricately constructed to protect the spinal cord and nerve roots while supporting much of the upper body’s weight and still allowing for movement. This puts an enormous amount of pressure on the spine’s moving parts, such as the discs and joints, leading to wear and deterioration that causes conditions like the following:

  • A bulging or herniated disc
  • Spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of nerve passageways in the spine
  • Arthritis of the spine, which can lead to the formation of a bone spur
  • Infection or tumor, interfering with nerve function
  • Sciatica, which are radiculopathic symptoms resulting from compression of the sciatic nerve in the lumbar spine

Upon diagnosis of a spine condition causing muscle weakness, most doctors will recommend conservative treatments with the goal of restoring mobility and relieving any pain that might be occurring. Options include rest, physical therapy, hot and cold compression and medication. In the event that strength is still not regained, or the muscle weakness is extreme and impacting daily activity after weeks and months of treatment, surgery may be proposed to address the problem.

Laser Spine Institute

If you are considering surgery but are anxious about the risks and difficulties that can go with traditional procedures, reach out to Laser Spine Institute. We perform minimally invasive spine surgery that is an alternative to the large incision, overnight hospitalization and long recovery time^ that can come with traditional open spine surgery.

To learn more, contact Laser Spine Institute for a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.