Radiculopathy occurs when a compressed nerve in your spine causes weakness, numbness or pain along the line of the nerve. While it can occur anywhere along the spine, it is most common in the neck and lower back. Because the nerve root is affected, symptoms of radiculopathy will often radiate to other parts of the body, including the forearm or foot. Radiculopathy is often a secondary condition developed because of osteoarthritis, facet joint degeneration, degenerative disc disease or spondylolisthesis.
There are several different tests that can be used to diagnose radiculopathy; x-rays can show the narrowing of the discs, while an MRI will show a better image of the nerve roots and spinal cord. Your doctor may also use an electromyogram, or EMG, to measure your muscles’ electrical impulses.
When nerves in the cervical spine (neck) are damaged, cervical radiculopathy will cause pain and numbness along the nerves’ entire pathway. Patients typically report a pain that spreads, encompassing the neck, arm, upper back, chest, or shoulders. Some patients will also experience weakness and numbness in their fingers, leading to a lack of coordination in their hands.
This damage can be caused by discs between vertebrae starting to deteriorate, putting pressure on nerve roots. When younger people develop cervical radiculopathy, it is typically because of trauma or a ruptured disc.
When the affected nerves are located in the lower back, or lumbar spine, it is known as lumbar radiculopathy. While it is typically caused by a disc slipping out of place and pinching a nerve, your chances of developing lumbar radiculopathy increase if you smoke, are male, overweight, or if you are elderly. Symptoms normally include weakness or numbness in your back and legs, as well as pain that migrates from your lower back down into your buttocks and back of your leg. Pain from lumbar radiculopathy is often felt below the knee, and will worsen when sneezing, coughing, sitting, or standing.
Both lumbar and cervical radiculopathy can be successfully treated with pain medications and corticosteroids for anti-inflammatory. You can also use physical therapy to help strengthen muscles and reduce pain. If these methods are unsuccessful, your doctors may recommend a discectomy surgery, along with a fusion, to free the affected nerves.
Our mission is to help you live a more comfortable life. If you think you may be suffering from radiculopathy, visit the physicians at the Florida Spine Institute. There are several tests available that can be used to diagnose this painful malady.