Radiculopathy is a term for pain that spreads out along a nerve, caused by inflammation at the base of the nerve’s attachment to the spinal column. Radicular pain (pain that radiates along the spine and into the lower extremities) is the result of a nerve problem that begins in the spine and is subsequently felt in the outer extremities. Radiculopathy is not technically a medical condition in itself; rather, it’s a word used to describe expressions of nerve pinching, irritation, and inflammation.
Radiculopathy can impact any area of the spine but typically occurs in the lower back or neck. Radicular pain is usually triggered by fluid in a spinal disc leaking through a crack and touching a nerve. It can also occur when pressure is put on a nerve from conditions like a herniated disc or scoliosis. Engaging in certain physical activities or sitting and standing in some positions can cause radiculopathy symptoms to be more pronounced.
When nerve pinching is present, radiculopathy may manifest as pain, numbness, or weakness in the extremities. Radiculopathy symptoms may include:
You may experience pain resulting from a compressed nerve. Pinched nerves in the neck or back can cause pain to radiate to the shoulder, arm, hand, hips, groin, and legs.
Numbness or tingling
A pinched nerve in the neck may induce numbness or tingling in arms and hands. In the back, a pinched nerve can create numbness or tingling in the buttocks, legs, groin, and feet.
A constricted nerve can produce weakness in the arms and legs that hinders or interferes with normal mobility.
In some cases, surgery might be recommended to treat the root of the problem, nerve compression. However, radicular pain is often first treated through nonsurgical treatments, such as:
Medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help relieve mild to moderate pain and swelling. Stronger prescription pain medications may be prescribed by your doctor for short-term use under careful supervision.
Therapeutic exercise works to alleviate pressure on the spinal nerves, therefore reducing radicular pain and radiculopathy symptoms.
A prescription muscle relaxant may be used to decrease muscle spasms.
Heat and cold
Alternating heat and cold applications, along with deep tissue massage, can mitigate pain and inflammation from radiculopathy.
Injected corticosteroids can offer temporary relief of moderate to severe pain.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of radiculopathy or radicular pain, please contact Hampton Roads Orthopaedics Spine and Sports Medicine to discuss your treatment options. With a team of orthopaedic specialists, pain management physicians and physical therapists, we are uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat most orthopaedic conditions in one convenient location.