Radiculopathy is the term used to define a form of back pain that is caused by damaged or compressed nerves at or near the point where they leave the spine. These nerves transmit sensory information to the central nervous system and back again. When these nerves relay this information improperly or act in an ineffective manner because of damage or compression, it causes a painful condition called radiculopathy.
When radiculopathy occurs, the affected nerve(s) may become irritated or diseased. This usually happens close to or in the foraminal canals. The areas of the spine that are the most susceptible to radiculopathy are the lower back, lumbar, or cervical spine (neck).
Patients living with this condition describe pain in varying degrees that impedes their quality of life, and they often struggle with pain daily. Before deciding on a specific treatment, one of our doctors will discuss your condition with you.
How Radiculopathy Occurs
There are several situations or conditions that can contribute to or cause pinched nerves.
- Putting undue strain on the back, such as doing heavy lifting or incorrectly lifting.
- Twisting of the back or positioning oneself in an unnatural position.
- Age-related degeneration.
- Family history of radiculopathy; genetics can factor into this condition.
- Health-related conditions, such as a tumor pressing against a nerve, diabetes, or infection.
- Injury sustained from a vehicle accident, fall, sports injury, or another injury.
There are several nonsurgical treatments that can be tried before resorting to surgery. These include a treatment known as spinal decompression. Physical therapy may provide relief, and hot and cold treatments are known to be effective in some cases, too. While waiting for these therapies to take effect, the patient may find more rapid relief by taking properly prescribed pain medications. More severe cases may require injections at the pain site to provide relief for extended periods of time. In most cases, surgery is avoided. The most serious cases, the ones that can’t be relieved by noninvasive therapies, can be treated by surgery.