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Radiculopathy Q & A

What is radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy is the term used by spine specialists to refer to any symptoms caused by a pinched nerve root located in the spinal column. Such symptoms include:

  • Sharp back, leg, arm, or shoulder pain that worsens with activities and abrupt movements, including coughing and sneezing
     

  • Weakness in the arms or legs
     

  • Abnormal sensations in the arms or legs, including tingling, skin numbness or “pins and needles”

These symptoms vary in frequency and intensity, based on the location of the pinched nerve root, and in some cases are only experienced during flare-ups.  

Similarly, radiculopathy is divided into three different categories, based on the location of the pinched nerve root:

Lumbar radiculopathy

Lumbar radiculopathy is the most common type of radiculopathy and refers to symptoms located in the lower back. Some people also refer to it as sciatica because it often affects the sciatic nerve, which dominates that area. Though the pinched nerve may originate in the lower back, it is not uncommon for symptoms to manifest only in the leg, not the back.

 

Cervical radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy describes symptoms of a pinched nerve root located in the neck, also known as the cervical spine. Typically, one would experience these symptoms as sensations in the hands and arms, since cervical spine nerve roots originate in the neck and run down the arms and into the fingertips.

 

Thoracic radiculopathy

Thoracic radiculopathy is the least common type of radiculopathy and refers to symptoms caused by a compressed nerve root in the upper back, also known as the thoracic area of the spine. Most often, one would experience thoracic radiculopathy as numbness and pain that wraps around the body from front to back.

What treatments for radiculopathy are available?

To treat radiculopathy, your Legacy Brain & Spine team will typically start with a conservative, nonsurgical approach or procedure, such as:

  • Physical therapy to strengthen muscles and prevent future damage
     

  • Steroid injections to reduce pain and inflammation
     

  • Facet injections to reduce pain originating in the nerves that cover the facet joints, which help the vertebrae move against one another
     

  • A spinal cord stimulator (SCS) trial if the above treatments do not provide relief.

For more complicated cases or if you don’t respond to conservative treatment, our practice also offers minimally invasive surgery.
 

Radiculopathy doesn’t have to rule your life. To learn more about how Legacy Brain & Spine can help you attain freedom from radiculopathy-associated pain, don´t hesitate to reach out to us online or over the phone today.