Radiculopathy is a term used to describe a condition where the nerve root in the spinal canal becomes inflamed or damaged. These nerve roots branch off from the spinal cord and exit through small openings in the vertebrae, and when they become compressed or damaged, pain and weakness can ensue.
Radiculopathy can be self-limiting and sometimes will go away on its own over time with rest, physical therapy, and ice/heat therapy. This condition can occur when the nerve root becomes inflamed as a result of a bone spur or herniated disc. Rarely, tumors or infections can cause this as well.
This is the most common form of Radiculopathy and involves the lower back. The nerves in the lower back are responsible for enabling function in our legs, buttocks, thighs, and feet, as well as providing sensation to our skin through sensory fibers. Thus, this condition can cause an array of symptoms, including:
Pain or weakness in the legs, buttocks, thighs, and feet
Numbness, tingling, or a pins-and-needle feeling in the legs, buttocks, thighs, and feet
Symptoms may be exacerbated by certain movements like standing and bending forward and backward
To diagnose, your doctor will perform a clinical exam and ask you a number of questions regarding your symptoms. Your doctor may look for abnormalities via a physical examination, X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Radiculopathy may be self-limiting and may go away on its own over time. When appropriate, non-surgical intervention is the first choice and may include:
1. Medications (anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, steroids)
2. Physical Therapy (core strengthening, stretching, soft tissue release)
3. Steroid Injections (epidural, facet blocks)
If non-surgical treatment fails, surgery may be recommended to treat the underlying condition.