The inflammation of a nerve, especially in the spine, can have some unpleasant symptoms.
- Sharp pain in the back, arms, legs, or shoulders that can worsen with certain activities
- Weakness or loss of reflexes in the arms or legs
- Numbness of the skin, “pins and needles,” or other abnormal sensations in the arms or legs
Overview and causes
Radiculopathy is a term for any pinched or damaged nerves in the spinal cord. The spine is made up of bones called vertebrae, and the spinal cord runs through the canal in the center of those bones. Nerve roots split from the cord and travel between the vertebrae into various areas of your body. When these nerves or nerve roots become damaged or pinched, it’s called radiculopathy.
What are the different types of radiculopathy?
Different types of radiculopathy are related to the location of the damaged nerve in the spine. This condition can have different symptoms and different names depending on where in the spine it occurs.
When radiculopathy occurs in the lower back, it is called lumbar radiculopathy. However, it can also be referred to as sciatica because nerve roots that make up the sciatic nerve are often involved. The lower back is the area most frequently affected by radiculopathy.
Cervical radiculopathy describes a compressed nerve root in the neck, sometimes called the cervical spine. The nerve roots in this area of the spine control sensations in your arms and hands, so those areas are where the symptoms are most likely to occur.
Thoracic radiculopathy refers to a compressed nerve root in the thoracic area of the spine, which lies in the upper back. The upper back is the least common location for radiculopathy to occur. The condition can cause pain and numbness that wraps around to the front of the body.
Radiculopathy treatment depends on the location and cause of the condition as well as a few other factors. Nonsurgical treatment is typically recommended first and may include:
- Medications, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, opioid medicines, or muscle relaxants to manage symptoms
- Weight loss strategies to reduce pressure on the problem area
- Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles and prevent further damage
- Steroid injections to reduce inflammation and relieve pain
Some patients may need more advanced treatments, such as surgery if nonsurgical treatments prove ineffective. Surgery is typically used to reduce the pressure on the nerve root by widening the space where the nerve roots exit the spine. This may involve removing all or parts of a disc and/or vertebrae.
If you would like to learn more about Radiculopathy or schedule a consultation, request an appointment with NewSouth NeuroSpine. We are committed to treating and caring for each individual.